The majority of the 12-person National Park System Advisory Board (NPSAB) resigned this week because President Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke was unwilling to meet with them, according to NPR. Democrat Tony Knowles, former governor of Alaska, said in a resignation letter “…from all of the events of this past year I have a profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of our National Parks has been set aside.”
The National Park Service (NPS) advisory board was first authorized in 1935, and today more than three-quarters of its members have left their seats. In the January 15 letter Knowles said that he will remain dedicated to the success of America’s national parks, but “For the last year we have stood by waiting for the chance to meet and continue the partnership between the NPSAB and the DOI [Department of the Interior] as prescribed by law. 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.”
Nine board members signed that letter, and all of their terms were set to expire in May. Today a tenth member – whose term doesn’t expire until 2021 – resigned as well. Project Concern International CEO Carolyn Hessler Radelet submitted a similar letter to Zinke.
According to The Washington Post, this move means the federal government lacks a functioning body to “designate national historic or natural landmarks.” The publication said it also shows how federal advisory bodies have been marginalized in Trump’s administration. Zinke suspended outside committees back in May of last year for his staff to review their work. Interior spokesperson Heather Swift said boards restarted in an email to The Washington Post earlier this month, but didn’t provide other details.
The two people remaining on the board at this time are University of Maryland professor Rita Colwell and Harvard University professor Linda Blimes, who told The Washington Post she didn’t resign as she’s currently conducting research funded by the National Park Foundation and wants to finish. Their terms are up in May.