Nearly all members of National Park Service advisory panel resign in frustration

Three-quarters of the members of a federally chartered board advising the National Park Service abruptly quit January 14, 2018 out of frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had refused to meet with them or convene a single meeting last year.

The resignation of nine out of 12 National Park System Advisory Board members leaves the federal government without a functioning body to designate national historic or natural landmarks. It also underscores the extent to which federal advisory bodies have become marginalized under the Trump administration. In May 2017, Zinke suspended all outside committees while his staff reviewed their composition and work.

In a letter to the secretary, departing board chairman Tony Knowles, a former Alaska governor, wrote that he and eight other members “have stood by waiting for the chance to meet and continue the partnership . . . as prescribed by law.”

The National Park System Advisory Board, which was established in 1935, has typically included social and natural science academics as well as former elected officials from both parties. In recent years, it has advised Interior on how to address climate change, among other issues, and how to encourage younger visitors to frequent the parks.

The board is required to meet twice a year but has not convened since Trump took office last January, Knowles said Tuesday. Members, most of whom have worked together for seven years, were surprised to not be consulted on Interior’s recent decisions to increase visitor fees and reverse a ban on plastic water bottles in the park system.

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