They felt like the Interior Department had snubbed their valuable work, so most members of the National Park System Advisory Board resigned last week.
Gretchen Long, who lives outside Jackson Hole, is one of the nine people on the 12-person National Park System Advisory Board who quit. It’s a group of citizen advisors who have coached the park system on everything from raising donor money to using science to manage the parks.
Long, who shared a background in conservation and youth education during her seven years on the panel, said the Interior Department was ignoring the board.
“I think we’re in to a tumultuous, difficult time, and nobody knows the outcome,” she said.
Last summer, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rolled back one of the group’s suggestions: keeping climate science in mind as the National Park Service oversees 84 million acres of public land. And the park service hasn’t had a leader since President Donald Trump took office to hear from the citizen advisory panel.
“It’s not only our wonderful natural resources like your fabulous Mighty Five in Utah,” she said, reflecting on what might be at risk. “But it’s also two-thirds of the park system is historic and cultural places and tells the story of America.”
A spokesperson for the Interior Department told NPR last week the mass resignation was a “hollow and dishonest political stunt.” Shortly after, the Interior Department said the board’s work is important and renewed the board’s charter.