Top Interior Officials Ordered Parks to End Science Policy, Emails Show

As deputy director of the National Park Service, Michael Reynolds played a key role in developing a sweeping new vision for managing national parks. The new policy, enacted in the final weeks of the Obama administration, elevated the role that science played in decision-making and emphasized that parks should take precautionary steps to protect natural and historic treasures.

But eight months later, as the first acting director of the Park Service under President Donald Trump, Reynolds rescinded this policy, known as Director’s Order 100. Newly released documents suggest that top Interior Department officials intervened, ordering Reynolds to rescind it.

A memo addressed to Reynolds states: “Pursuant to direction from (Interior) Secretary (Ryan) Zinke, I hereby instruct you to rescind Director’s Order #100.”

Reynolds, now the superintendent of Yosemite National Park, did not respond to requests for an interview.

The emails were among 170 pages of documents released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Union of Concerned Scientists, an activist group.

Some top officials in the National Park Service were dismayed that the policy was canceled in August of 2017, according to the emails. Chris Lehnertz, superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park, called it “hard news for me to swallow,” according to an email she wrote to Reynolds and others.

Jonathan Jarvis, who was President Barack Obama’s Park Service director, said now that the order has been rescinded, national parks could become more welcoming to drones, jet skis and private companies that want to build luxurious accommodations.

“We’re back into the era when those kinds of things will be proposed,” Jarvis said. “I’m sure we’re going to see some.”

Jarvis, who signed Director’s Order 100, said he thinks the Trump administration objected to the policy because it stressed that parks follow the “precautionary principle,” preventing actions or activities that plausibly…

Read more