Every new administration promises to trim the influence of unknown, disconnected bureaucrats and open the federal decision-making process up to more voices from more places.
Unless, of course, those in the administration decide that more voices from more places just get in the way of policies they are determined to implement. In which case, those voices get ignored, disrespected and -- in the case of the National Park System Advisory Board -- basically stonewalled out of existence.
A body created by Congress 83 years ago, the 12-member board is -- or was -- made up of a scatter of people from different parts of the country representing both politics and academia. Its job was to study, research, gather opinions and expertise and make recommendations to the National Park Service and its parent agency, the Interior Department, on best practices for taking care of America’s Best Idea.
But last week, after waiting nearly a year for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to notice them, nine of the 12 board members resigned in protest. Among them was Margaret Wheatley, a Provo resident who has a doctorate from Harvard in Organizational Behavior and Change -- a skill set that any Cabinet secretary truly interested in reform might find useful.
But Wheatley, along with former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles and seven others, very publicly gave up those spots when it became clear that Zinke was not interested in hearing their advice. Wheatley explained her reason in a commentary published in Sunday’s Salt Lake Tribune.
Those who resigned also included Wyoming resident Gretchen Long, a Harvard business graduate with a long record of both business experience and conservation activism.
The parks board managed to hang on longer than all 17 members of a similar body -- the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities -- who quit back in August. In a resignation letter where the first letter of each paragraph spelled out the word “RESIST.”
Those who walked out were unanimous in their view that Zinke and the National Park Service have their own agenda, one that apparently includes opening up more public land to mining and drilling and having little respect for the millions of people who love the parks, and have no intention of slowing down to discuss any of that.
This is exactly the opposite of what President Trump promised when, in his recent visit to Utah, to protect public lands, “ through a truly representative process, one that listens to the local communities that knows the land the best and that cherishes the land the most.”
What has become clear, though, is that the administration’s idea of those who cherish the land most are those most eager to dig it up. No other voices need be heard.