Acadia National Park committee suspension lifted by Interior Secretary

The Acadia National Park Advisory Commission is planning to resume meetings, following a sudden suspension of their meetings by the Trump administration in May.

Jacqueline Johnston, chair of Acadia National Park Advisory Commission

Jacqueline Johnston, chair of the Acadia advisory commission

Ryan Zinke, the secretary of interior, had suspended the meetings of the Acadia commission and more than 200 other federal advisory committees to give his department time to review the “charter and charge” of the panels.

In a press release Thursday, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine announced that the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission will be able to resume its meetings after September 1st and can now begin communicating accordingly.

Jacqueline Johnston of Gouldsboro, chair of the Acadia advisory commission, said she was relieved by the end of the suspension. The all-volunteer commission is planning to meet next on Sept. 11 at the Schoodic section of the park, after being required to cancel a June meeting which was scheduled to deal with important issues such as a transportation plan for the park.

Johnston said she was happy for the support of Collins and King, who had written a letter to Zinke urging him to reconsider his decision to suspend the Acadia Commission.

“It was clear they were very active in supporting the commission and voicing their concerns and they are certainly two very influential senators,” Johnston said in an interview on Friday.

Sen. King says suspension “National Park version of trust but verify”

During a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Tuesday, Zinke explained to King the reasons for suspending the meetings of the federal advisory committees across the country.

According to a video of the meeting provided in a King press release, Zinke said he was responsible to a degree for 220 federal advisory committees and he suspended them all because he wanted to know who was on the boards, their budgets and what they have accomplished the last year and last 5 years.

“The overwhelming number of boards do great things,” Zinke told King. “It was an opportunity for me to know who was on the board, look through their goals, which I think is important. If I had any questions, I could ask. I assume we will have all the paperwork on those boards.”

“It sounds like the National Park version of trust but verify,” King responded.

Zinke said the federal advisory committees cost $15 million in administrative costs, which he said is not much in relation to the overall federal budget.

“But if you are a plumber, $15 million is a lot of money,” Zinke said. “As the steward of the taxpayers’ dollars, I just want to know the great things the boards are doing, who is on the board, what they have done the last year, what they have done the last 5 years and then…be glad to write them a card and say thank you for the service and then invite them to DC to talk to them.”

Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

About Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

Dolores Kong and Dan Ring are co-authors of the Falcon guides Hiking Acadia National Park and Best Easy Day Hikes Acadia National Park, and also blog at acadiaonmymind.com. They’ve backpacked the 270-plus miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine, and are members of the Northeast 111 Club, having hiked all major peaks of the Northeast. Dolores is a former staff reporter at The Boston Globe. Dan is a journalist and former Statehouse bureau chief in Boston for the old Ottaway News Service and for The Republican, the daily newspaper for Springfield, Mass. They are married and live outside Boston.