Donald Trump seems to be making few friends within the National Park Service. From the moment he took office, he proceeded to force government agencies into an unassailable truth standard. His administration has made repeated efforts to restrict information released by the government.
At this point, it is not entirely clear what specific information will come out again. The American people are now party to a bizarre, reactionary administrative obsession with cleanliness and efficiency that threatens to make permanent and detrimental changes.
The Environmental Protection Agency has been a primary target of Trump’s restrictive efforts. The EPA is now subject to a contracts and grant money freeze. Also, according to multiple EPA employees, instructions were to remove the climate change page on its website. Currently the page is still up. Instructions also ordered the cessation of press releases and social media posts. The administration gave the same gag order to employees of the Department of Agriculture.
There is, without a doubt, a substantial portion of the scientific community that believes the Trump administration will only continue in its attempts at systematic censorship. Scientists across the country are concerned that these actions may only succeed in sowing distrust among the public for science.
In addition to fears of a changed perspective, scientists also fear restrictions on access to climate science data. Some of this data has taken years of institutional effort to collect. With respect to the changes, a former EPA official commented that, “Scientific information about climate change is a public good. Taxpayers have a right to the results of research and studies they are paying for. The idea that Americans could be cut off from access to basic information about what is happening to their environment and in their communities is dangerous and appalling.”
Trump has promised to eliminate policies that breed inefficiency and waste. Whitehouse.gov now says, in keeping with campaign rhetoric, that, “The Trump Administration is committed to energy policies that lower costs for hardworking Americans and maximize the use of American resources, freeing us from dependence on foreign oil. […] President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.”
The Department of the Interior has also felt the sting of Trump’s scouring neurosis. Last Friday, the National Parks Service Twitter re-tweeted multiple posts, one, a statement about the size of the inauguration crowd. The second was a statement about changes to the White House website. After the posts, the administration asked the NPS to shut down its Twitter page temporarily.
An email sent to DOI employees read, in part, “All bureaus and the department have been directed by incoming administration to shut down Twitter platforms immediately until further notice.”
Despite this fact, some government employees resisted the order. On Tuesday, the Badlands National Park Twitter account posted tweets containing information relevant to the climate change issue. Deletion of the posts came within hours of their creation. Soon after their deletion the Democratic National Committee tweeted its response, “Vladimir Putin would be proud.”
Other national parks followed this example and tweeted climate information, including Golden Gate National Park and Redwoods National Park. Death Valley National Park tweeted images of interned Japanese Americans. It is possible that this post was a statement about the Trump administration’s approach to Islam.
Apparently, Trump is unpopular with a large number of U.S. park rangers, go figure that one. There now exists at least one rogue NPS Twitter account that is not subject to the agency’s authority. AltUSNatParkService has accumulated almost 1 million followers since its creation on Tuesday. One of its first posts reads:
“Mr Trump, you may have taken us down officially. But with scientific evidence & the Internet our message will get out.”
Donald Trump’s administration is in the process of forming its legacy. It has already guaranteed that a part of this legacy will be criticism from environmentalists and scientists lasting for decades. On the flip side, it is likely that he will be praised by the industrialists who stand to profit immensely from the opportunities that his policies provide.