Knowles quits National Parks panel, says new administration won’t listen

Former Alaska Governor Tony Knowles. 2012 Photo by Lori Townsend.

Former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles led a mass resignation this week from the advisory board of the National Park System. He’s served on the board since 2010.

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As first reported by The Washington Post, Knowles submitted a resignation letter Monday to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. It’s also signed by eight others on the 12-member board. Knowles says he’s concerned the Department of Interior is undoing much of the progress made in recent years, without even listening to the merits.

“The department 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 said in a phone interview. “And it has rescinded NPS regulations of resource stewardship concerning those very things: biodiversity loss, pollution and climate change.”

Zinke issued an order last year freezing work on all advisory committees so the administration would review what they were doing. Knowles says the National Parks System Advisory Board is different because it was chartered by Congress. His term was due to end in May, along with most of the board members. Knowles says they requested meetings with the new team at Interior but were ignored for a year.

“If they don’t want to meet with us, fine. That’s their prerogative,” he 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.”

The press office of the Interior Department did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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