Nine of 12 National Park System Advisory Board members quit in protest

Ryan Zinke Secretary of the Interior

Nine of the 12 members of the National Park System Advisory Board resigned their posts Monday.

In a letter informing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke of their decision, they said Zinke and his staff's refusal to meet with them spurred the decision.

"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", the letter said. "But we wanted to make a statement as a board as we left what our concerns are, because we don't think they the new policies reflect the vast number of public that support the national park system". Still, he said the resignees were not consulted on recent decisions to increase visitor fees and to reverse a ban on plastic water bottles in the park system.

The concerns of the resigning panel members include climate change and the hiring of diverse candidates by the U.S. National Park Service, Knowles added.

The board members' action comes as one of Zinke's top deputies, Doug Domenech, assistant secretary for insular areas, plans to move into the Washington offices that the National Park Service has occupied for half a century.

The advisory board guides designations as well as programs in national parks like Yosemite.

. All of the signatories of Monday's letter had terms set to expire in May.

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With Zinke as its leader, the Interior Department, which oversees the National Park Service, "showed no interest in learning about or continuing to use the forward-thinking agenda of science, the effect of climate change, protections of the ecosystems, education", Knowles told Alaska Public Radio.

The Interior Department and the National Park Service had not responded to requests for comment on the resignations at the time of the publication of this article.

Previous administrations met with the board immediately, Knowles noted, having served on the board for seven years. Their terms were set to end in May, allowing Zinke to choose replacements then.

"This discourteous and disrespectful treatment of the board is inexcusable and, unfortunately, consistent with a decidedly anti-park pattern demonstrated by Secretary Zinke's department", coalition chair Phil Francis said.

Secretary Zinke, formerly a USA representative serving Montana, has come under scrutiny for promoting the president's agenda over protection the nation's public lands.

"If we're going to be ignored, we're going to make a statement", Knowles said by telephone.

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