The Trump Administration has finally nominated a director for the National Park Service. The new director will manage a public lands system facing record-breaking visitation and $11 billion in maintenance backlog.
David Vela has worked most of his career in the National Park Service, most recently as superintendent of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Republicans and park retirees are cheering his selection.
Phil Francis is a former superintendent with the Park Service and the chair of the nonprofit Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks. "David had an opportunity to interact on a wide array of issues that he’ll be facing again if he’s confirmed as director of the National Park Service," says Francis.
But Vela’s nomination also drew some criticism. Jeff Rauch is with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. He says Vela has a “troubling record."
"In terms of allowing developments and other things that hurt park resources and being allergic to the long-term planning that the parks are going to need if they’re going to avoid being loved to death," Rauch says. "Certainly the Trump Administration could have picked a worse nominee. Our point it that they could have done much better."
Superintendent Vela will first have to face the Senate before being confirmed as park service director. The Department of the Interior announced the pick on Friday.
“David Vela has demonstrated all of the ideals that the National Park Service stands for, and his long track record of leadership on behalf of the people and places of the National Park Service distinguish him as the right man for the job,” says Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “Our extraordinary national parks will be in the best of hands with David at the helm.”
The park service director is one of the land agency leadership positions the administration has taken a long time to fill. The director positions for the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service remain vacant.
Find reporter Amanda Peacher on Twitter @amandapeacher.
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