What happened: The National Park Service’s (NPS) acting deputy director, David Vela, has issued a memo that requires that NPS staff, including scientists, to seek permission from supervisors in Washington DC if they want to submit public comments on policies at other federal agencies. Permission is required to be sought at least three weeks in advance, which may be especially difficult for comment periods that are usually open for only 30- to 90-day intervals. The order only applies to certain topics, such as energy and development activities, access to park resources, and wildlife corridors.
Why it matters: This memo could limit the ability of NPS staff to provide evidence-based comments on proposed rules at other agencies, particularly on topics related to oil drilling and other developments near national parks. Without the comments from NPS staff, it may become easier to allow developments to occur on governmental land that is adjacent to national parks, which could have repercussions on Americans visiting national parks and on the ecology and wildlife in the region.
Learn more about how NPS staff are being, in essence, censored from their ability to provide an expert opinion at other agencies through the public comment process.