Melania Trump on Saturday held an event to celebrate the 102nd anniversary of the National Parks Service (NPS). She thanked the service for its “commitment to this country.”
The only problem is that President Donald Trump hasn’t reciprocated with a similar commitment.
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) August 25, 2018
Over the course of Trump’s presidency so far, the NPS has repeatedly been in the administration’s crosshairs.
Under the budget proposal released in February, for instance, extreme staffing cuts of nearly 2,000 National Park Service rangers were proposed — this at a time when national park visitation is at an all-time high.
The proposed cuts to park staff would risk a reduction in services to the public, closed facilities, and heavier workloads for remaining staff.
This came after the majority of the National Park System Advisory Board members resigned out of frustration. Their qualms were with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke — who ultimately oversees the NPS as part of the Department of Interior — having refused to meet with them or hold a single meeting last year.
Internal emails obtained by the Washington Post showed that the board members “worried Zinke was sidelining them as he reviewed the work of more than 200 outside committees to make sure they reflected the Trump team’s priorities.”
It’s not the first time that senior officials have tried to crack down on NPS. The relationship has been fraught from the day President Trump took office. After the National Parks Service Twitter account shared a tweet comparing the size of Trump and President Barack Obama’s inauguration audiences, the NPS account was temporarily shut down by the Interior Department.
Since then, the administration has worked to open up public lands to mining and fossil fuel extraction.
Last December, Trump announced the largest-ever reduction of a national monument in the nation’s history, shrinking Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by some 1.1 million acres, or nearly 85 percent. He also announced that Grand Staircase-Escalante, another national monument in Utah, would be reduced to nearly half its original size.
Later it was revealed that oil and gas extraction, as well as coal, was a primary motivator behind the decision to reduce the size of these national monuments.
In fact, just a week prior to Melania’s NPS celebration at the White House, the Department of the Interior released is management plans for the much smaller Grand Staircase and Bears Ears national monuments.
These plans emphasized a priority for energy development and the intention to sell off the 1,610 acres of public lands that had been carved off of the monuments last year.
This is despite Zinke last year assuring the public that “I am absolutely against transfer or sale of public land.”
But after an outcry from environmental groups, the Interior walked back the proposal.
The backlash was similarly swift after Melania’s tweet on Saturday in praise of the NPS.
Twitter was quick to point out the irony, with individuals asking whether this was the “same Parks service that was punished for telling the truth about the inauguration crowd size?”
— Robert Mueller (@realrobertmuell) August 25, 2018
Others noted the prioritization of fossil fuels over the environment, while another tweeted: “Your sentiment falls flat when you do everything to remove protections and funding FOR our national park services!”
“Special Counsel Robert Mueller” — or a more likely a cheeky Twitter user posing as him — responded to the hapless First Lady with a simple “Wanna talk?”