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Parks Board: Members Resign Over What They Call Interior Department Neglect

National Park Service
Nine of the 12 members of the National Parks System Advisory Board have quit over what they say is the Interior Department's indifference to their work.

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.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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