The current US administration’s lack of interest in the environment creates another victim: two weeks ago, 10 out of 12 National Park System Advisory Board members have resigned on January 17, effectively leaving the US without a functioning body to designate national historic or natural landmarks. Since then, nothing has been done to address the situation.This highlights once again how marginalized and disregarded scientific agencies and advisory bodies have become in recent times.

The view of Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park, California, United States. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0.

It’s no secret that US President Trump and the figures he has surrounded himself with are no friends of the environment, but their ability to disregard those things that aren’t on their agenda never ceases to amaze. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who is responsible for the National Park System, reportedly refused to meet with National Park System (NPS) advisors even a single time.

The NPS advisors are chartered by Congress to advance the mission and ideals represented by National Parks. The institution has been in this current form since 1935 but now, citing a complete lack of interest from the administration, 10 out of the 12 advisors have resigned. They say that not even a single meeting was granted to them by the new interior secretary, and as things stand now, it’s futile to continue trying.

In a resignation letter, former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles writes:

“[Our] requests to engage have been ignored and the matters on which we wanted to brief the new Department team are clearly not part of the agenda.” the letter reads.

“We understand the complexity of transition but our requests to engage have been ignored and the matters on which we wanted to brief the new Department team are clearly not part of its agenda,” Knowles wrote. “I wish the National Park System and Service well and will always be dedicated to their success.”

Aside from many other consequences, this also means that no new historical and natural landmarks will be established, as this requires the board’s approval.

In his quest to wipe out Obama’s legacy, President Trump has stopped at nothing — not at healthcare, not at science, and certainly not at the environment. E&E News points out that the current administration has simply scrapped the idea of having science and the public long-term interest at the forefront:

“At the heart of the dispute is the Trump administration’s move in August to scrap a 2016 order by the Obama administration that called for a focus on climate change in managing natural resources in U.S. parks. …

“Among other things, the order called for park managers to make decisions based ‘on science, law and long-term public interest.’ And it said park superintendents and other NPS leaders had to ‘possess scientific literacy appropriate to their positions and resource management decision-making responsibilities.’ “

The Department of Interior welcome the resignations and called their claims “blatantly false,” without providing any evidence of collaboration.

In June 2017, Zinke called for the elimination of 4,000 jobs from the Interior Department and supported the White House proposal to cut the department’s budget by 13.4%. The same month, Zinke ordered 50 Interior Department members of the Senior Executive Service to be reassigned. The scope of the move was unusual and has not yet been explained; scientist Joel Clement interpreted the move as retaliation against him “for speaking out publicly about the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities.”

In 2017, Zinke, who is a passionate trophy hunter, began reviewing at least 27 national monuments to determine if any of the monuments could be reduced in size. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, as well as several others, are set to be shrunk as a result of this endeavor.

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