Nine out of 12 members of the U.S. National Park Service’s advisory board abruptly resigned leaving just three members on the bipartisan panel as of Jan. 15. The resignations come after the Department of the Interior announced its plan to open the nation’s coastline to offshore drilling.
The letter of resignation, which was signed by the 9 members, stated “disapproval in the weakening policies that protect the U.S. public lands.”
“From all the events of this past year I have a profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of out national parks has been set aside,” Tony Knowles, former Alaska governor and leader of the board, wrote in the letter of resignation.
The board, which falls under the management of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, requested several meetings with the secretary and other members of the Department, but their requests have yet to be answered.
“For the last year, we have stood by waiting for the chance to meet and continue the partnership between the [advisory board] and the Department of the Interior as prescribed by law,” Knowles wrote in the letter of resignation. He continued that 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.”
The terms of the nine board members who resigned were set to expire in May.
The board was established in 1935 and has included social and natural science academics and many former elected officials from both political parties, according to ThinkProgress. By law, the board is required to meet twice a year and is responsible for advising both the interior secretary and the director of National Park Service on matters concerning the National Park system and the National Park Service, according to EcoWatch.
But Knowles, who has served on the board for the last seven years, was recently told that things were “suspended.” Trump’s new budget plan would cut funding to the National Park Service in which 1,242 full-time staff would lose their jobs, according to ThinkProgress.
While the board has worked closely with National Park Service employees with specific scientific research, protection of wildlife and engaging a more diverse park culture, the Trump administration has already rolled back a few key measures the board passed, such as lower park fees and a ban on plastic water bottles in national parks.
“We resigned because we were deeply disappointed with the department and we were concerned,” Knowles said to the New York Times.