Political News

Interior Department rebuts claims in National Park System board members' resignation letter

Posted January 17, 2018 7:09 p.m. EST

— The Department of Interior is rebutting concerns cited by members of the National Park System Advisory Board who quit on Tuesday.

"It is patently false to say the Department had not engaged the board when as recently as January 8 we were working with the board to renew their charter, schedule a meeting, and fill vacancies," a statement issued by the department on Wednesday read.

Nine former board members sent a letter Tuesday to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and cited concerns with the Trump administration's priorities regarding the national parks, according to the letter obtained by CNN. The board can have up to 12 members.

The author of the letter, former Alaska Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles, said the board is supposed to meet twice a year. However, he said, he's been told things were "suspended."

The Interior Department statement said they "welcome" the resignations and accused the departing members of turning a blind eye to reports of "ethics and management failures, all while taking credit for the extensive work of private companies during the NPS centennial celebration."

"The Department is happy to report that we have a number of individuals who have expressed interest in joining the board and we will now fast-track filling these new vacancies with people who are actually dedicated to working with the Department to better our national parks. We expect to have a full board meeting soon," the statement said.

Former Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes shared his thoughts on the department's statement in a tweet.

"Wow. What a mean-spirited, bullshit response from @Interior's politicals. Breathtaking arrogance," Hayes wrote in response to a Washington Post reporter's tweet about the statement.

Eight of the nine who were part of the letter had terms expiring in May, and suspected Interior was running out the clock.

"For the last year we have stood by waiting for the chance to meet and continue the partnership between the NPSAB and the DOI as prescribed by law," the letter read. "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."