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Ryan Zinke. Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Majority of National Parks Panel Quits in Protest of Ryan Zinke

Nearly all members of the National Park Service advisory panel abruptly quit on Monday in protest of the Trump administration's policies, which they say have neglected science, climate change and environmental protections.

"From all of the events of this past year I have a profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of our National Parks has been set aside," the head of the panel, Tony Knowles, wrote in a letter of resignation addressed to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who oversees management of the country's national parks and monuments.

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The famous Wahweap Hoodoos at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are no longer protected as a national monument. Mark Stacey / NOAA

New Grand Staircase-Escalante Proposal Would Further Harm the Region

By John Gilroy

Just a day after President Donald Trump significantly diminished the boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) introduced legislation that would reduce the protections on this unique landscape even further.

The Grand Staircase-Escalante Enhancement Act (H.R. 4558) mirrors President Trump's proclamation by creating three smaller national monuments and one national park that together would preserve roughly 60 percent of the landscape that has been safeguarded by the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument since its inception in 1996.

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Trump Watch
Grand Canyon National Park. NPS

Nearly 100 Climate Action Plans for National Parks Removed From Website

Climate change is a major challenge to America's beloved National Parks—from hotter, drier conditions that can spark intense wildfires that can permanently alter Yosemite's landscapes, to sea level rise triggered by warming temperatures that threaten the Everglades.

In fact, nearly 100 parks have been preparing for and adapting to the damaging effects of climate change for years under the National Park Service's "Climate Friendly Parks Program" (CFP). However, you'll no longer be able to easily find these well-documented efforts to reduce emissions and move to more sustainable operations—that's because their work has been completely scrubbed from the Climate Friendly Parks Program website, a watchdog group has found.

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Animals

Balkan Dams Pose Major Threat to Protected Species

Construction sites for hydroelectric dams are popping up all over southeast Europe and endangering mountain rivers and the region's unique biodiversity, according to researchers.

More than 2,700 hydropower plants are in the planning phase across the Balkans, with 37 percent of dams slated to be built on land with "high protection status," according to Save the Blue Heart of Europe, a coalition of NGOs. Within that 37 percent, 118 dams will be constructed in national parks, while another 547 will be built in Natura 2000 areas, an EU-designated network of nature protection areas.

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The Trump administration has proposed increased entry fees at 17 national parks, including the Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon National Park / Flickr

You Now Have More Time to Protest National Park Fee Hikes

Following widespread outrage, the National Parks Service (NPS) has extended the comment period for the public to weigh in on the proposed rate hikes at 17 of the most popular national parks across the country.

The comment period now closes Dec. 22, 2017. The original deadline had been set for Thursday.

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Trump Watch
U.S. Department of the Interior building. Kmf164 / CC-BY-SA-2.5

Department of the Interior, or Ministry of Doublespeak?

Defenders of Wildlife recently obtained a copy of Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's "Top 10 Priorities" for his department (text version). These priorities are reflected in the department's recently leaked draft 2018–2022 Strategic Plan, but the priorities themselves are noteworthy for their strikingly euphemistic tone.

They are written to evoke a responsive, progressive Interior Department serving the country by protecting our natural heritage and ensuring sensible use of our natural resources. And there's the problem. All ten priorities are entirely disconnected from Interior's actions to date. Following is our take on the doublespeak nature of the secretary's Top 10 Priorities.

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Emotional Video Shows Colorblind Park Visitors Seeing Fall Colors for First Time

Around this time of year, millions of people travel to Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains to witness the brilliant reds, oranges and yellows of autumn foliage.

But for the 13 million Americans who have protanopia and protanomaly (red-green color blindness or red-blind), they might not be as impressed with the scenery.

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Gage Skidmore / (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Cliven Bundy’s Armed Insurrection, Rooted in Religious Extremism, Goes on Trial

By John Dougherty

In two heavily armed, militia-backed confrontations with the federal government in 2014 and 2016, Nevada scofflaw rancher Cliven Bundy and his family successfully created a self-serving narrative of a God-fearing, hard-working, true-blooded American family fearlessly battling an overreaching, oppressive and unconstitutional federal bureaucracy.

Bundy, 71, became a national figure in April 2014 when he forced federal land managers to release cattle seized for trespassing on public lands in southeast Nevada. Nineteen months later two of Bundy's sons, Ammon and Ryan, led an armed group that seized Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, about 32 miles south of this remote ranching community in southeast Oregon. In both instances, the elder Bundy leveraged growing public dissatisfaction with the federal government to promote his assertion that federal tyranny is crushing individual rights.

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Trump Watch
A road leads into Zion National Park in Utah. Henk Meijer / Alamy

While Trump Opens National Parks to Fossil Fuel Drilling, Fee Hikes Would Lock Out Vacationing Families

By Julia Conley

The national parks, heralded by one former director as containing "the highest potentialities of national pride, national contentment, and national health," may soon be off-limits to many working American families due to price hikes that were proposed on Wednesday by Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke.

Citing the need to address maintenance and infrastructure concerns, the National Park Service said it wants to raise rates for vehicle passes from $25-30 to $70 during the busiest months of the year at some of the country's most popular parks, including the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone.

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