Today, the Western Values Project released new research on Raymond “David” Vela, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the National Park Service (NPS), onto the Department of Influence website. If confirmed, Vela, who is currently the Superintendent of Grand Teton National Park, would be responsible for overseeing the approximately 20,000 NPS employees who work at 417 national parks. Until nominating Mr. Vela, Secretary Zinke and the Trump administration had failed to make a nomination for National Park Service Director for the previous 19 months.
David Vela is a career employee of the National Park Service, having served in NPS in a variety of positions since the 1980s; he took an eleven year stint from 1987 to 1998 to work for other federal agencies and for the Texas state government. Throughout his time at NPS, Vela has developed a troubling pattern of repeatedly ignoring procedures intended to raise public awareness of NPS policies, and attempting to prevent the extension of public comment periods.
“At a time when the National Park Service is under threat from Secretary Zinke’s privatization scheme, mismanagement, fee hikes, vindictive reassignments, and looming extractive resource development on park borders, choosing a nominee who has a history of keeping the public in the dark and limiting public comment periods is concerning to say the least,” said Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger.
Western Values Project is calling for the release of Superintendent Vela’s financial disclosure forms and a thorough examination and explanation of his position on issues facing the nation’s park system, including the release of public documents, park privatization, deferred maintenance and personnel management, prior to his hearing.
Research highlights in David Vela’s newly released profile include:
Similarly, Secretary Zinke’s Interior Department has struggled with being transparent. Earlier this year, the Interior Inspector General was stymied in an investigation looking into whether or not Interior career employees were wrongfully reassigned because top Interior staff failed to adequately document how they made their decisions.
NPS is currently being run by Acting Director Paul Daniel Smith, a controversial appointee who is infamous for previously helping his friend and Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder bypass environmental laws so he could cut down over 130 trees to get a better view of the Potomac River.
The Senate has yet to announce when they will hold Superintendent Vela’s confirmation hearing.
The Department of Influence website was created by Western Values Project to document the revolving door between special interest lobbyists and political appointees at the Department of the Interior and to expose how that revolving door influences decisions made by the department.