Park Service group to feds: ‘Pendulum is swinging too far to the side of development’

Retired National Park Service employees spoke about the impacts of oil and gas development on some national parks—particularly from adjacent lands overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks sent a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, expressing concern over the “alarming” number of oil and gas proposals near parks and what they see as overall efforts by the department to reduce protections for national parks in order to encourage oil and gas drilling.

“As former land managers, we understand the need to balance competing priorities,” the former NPS employees wrote. “But we fear the pendulum is swinging too far to the side of development.”

The coalition represents 1,400 retired, former and current National Park Service employees. The letter to Zinke cites concerns about six parks in particular, including Chaco Culture National Historical Park in the energy-rich San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico. (Zion National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Hovenweep National Monument, and Fort Laramie National Historic Site.)

Tom Vaughan, who spent decades working for the National Park Service, served as superintendent of Chaco during the 1980s. He said that while driving on Highway 550 last month, he was “flabbergasted” by the rise in development, particularly on the checkerboard of BLM, state and allotment lands on the eastern Navajo Nation.

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