New reporting from the Washington Post has revealed that the Trump administration is now requiring national park supervisors to notify their Washington D.C. superiors before commenting to other federal agencies when there are concerns about proposed oil and gas drilling and infrastructure developments near national park boundaries. The move has been seen as an attempt to make development on federal public lands easier by suppressing national parks’ employees’ opinions.
“Stomping on critical voices is a trademark of the Trump Administration. Seeing the slow erosion of our public lands and outdoor heritage begins with silencing voices of concern, while Trump and Secretary Bernhardt opt to sell off, drill on, dig up, and forever develop the areas surrounding our national parks for special interests,” said Western Values Project Deputy Director Jayson O’Neill.
The memo details “guidance” for park officials to voice their potential concerns against new development projects near national parks – but it has been seen as a way for proposed industrial extractive resource development to avoid public scrutiny or criticism. Often, land surrounding national parks is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which has the potential to be administered for oil drilling, cattle grazing, or other development attempts. The BLM is now headed up by William Pendley, a long-time anti-public lands zealot and extremist lawyer who has previously advocated for the wholesale sell-off of federal public lands.
The memo came from Acting Deputy Director of Operations for the National Park Service David Vela, who has his own history of repeatedly ignored procedures intended to raise public awareness of NPS policy policies and attempted to prevent the extension of public comment periods.
Not so ironically, the Interior Department has argued that the department-wide reorganization’s intent is to allow ‘decisions to be made closer to where our partners live and work’ and improve ‘communication between our experts in the field.’
The Trump administration and the Interior Department under Secretary Bernhardt have showcased a pattern of suppressing science and silencing career officials within Interior when their best interest is served.