UPDATE: US Office of Personnel Management provides guidance late on 1/31/2017 on hiring freeze, saying that seasonal employees, such as at Acadia, are exempt, but other positions are not.
Amid reports of the Trump administration clamping down on federal climate change efforts and the National Park Service Twitter account, Acadia National Park says its climate change exhibit and social media haven’t been affected – yet.
“Nothing’s changed as of now,” said John T. Kelly, management assistant for Acadia, in an interview late last week, adding that it’s still early. “We’re under a new administration. We’re working for a new boss.” The Acadia climate change exhibit officially opened at the Sieur de Monts Nature Center as part of Centennial festivities last year, with the ribbon cutting ceremony on Park Science Day on June 25.
But the park can’t fill vacant positions, such as the environmental compliance officer and visual information specialist jobs that recently came open, and it’s unclear whether the up to 150 seasonal positions can be filled during a hiring freeze announced by President Donald J. Trump, according to Kelly.
“The word on seasonal employees has not been given yet,” said Kelly, although the park is continuing the process of identifying qualified candidates. “We’re not sure if some, all or none would be allowed.”
In the first week of the new administration, NPS’s Twitter account was temporarily shut down after retweeting a couple of items viewed as unfavorable – side-by-side photos of the crowd during President Trump’s inauguration and President Obama’s, and an article about the taking down of climate change information on the White House Web site. And the Environmental Protection Agency was told not to post any social media or grant any new contracts or awards, according to reports in the Washington Post and elsewhere.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters last Tuesday that “I don’t think it’s any surprise that when there’s an administration turnover that we’re going to review the policies.”
But resistance to the Trump administration is building, with supporters of Acadia and other national parks and environmentalists setting up alternative social media sites to get out climate change facts, downloading or forwarding climate change reports, and planning a March for Science in March, and a People’s Climate March on April 29, both to be held in Washington, DC.
Perhaps the piece de resistance is by Mount Desert Island Marathon director Gary Allen, who for his 60th birthday got together with some friends and carved “RESIST” in Sand Beach at low tide. The photos have gone viral on the Alt Acadia National Park Facebook page, and stories have been written about them on the Web sites for CNN and Boston Magazine, among other places.
The Alt Acadia National Park Facebook page isn’t affiliated with the park, but with an independent sister Facebook page, Alt National Park Service, established by a growing coalition of National Park Service employees from around the country, according to info on the Facebook pages. “We are concerned citizens who were looking for a way to assist by helping to share the type of climate change and other information that the Trump administration has been trying to suppress. We are not affiliated with the park, and only affiliated with the AltNPS as an independent sister site,” the administrator for the Alt Acadia National Park Facebook page told us in a message.
Worries over seasonal hiring and Acadia climate change education
While park officials haven’t yet received any directives from Washington about Acadia climate change efforts or social media, it is being affected by a federal hiring freeze announced by President Trump last week, lasting up to 90 days to give the Office of Management and Budget time to develop a long-term plan for shrinking the federal workforce.
“No vacant positions can be filled and no new positions can be created,” said Acadia’s Kelly.
But the uncertainty around the seasonal jobs for Acadia may be causing the most worry, since this is when the park usually ramps up its hiring process for the workers – from rangers to trail workers, auto mechanic to museum technician – necessary for the peak season. Last year, Acadia received more than 3.3 million visitors, the most since at least 1990, when the park changed the way it tracked visitation statistics.
“Springtime would be the earliest we would begin to make offers,” said Kelly.
Stephanie Clement, Friends of Acadia conservation director, said she’s concerned the park could be hamstrung by directives coming out of the Trump administration not only in terms of staffing, but also in terms of climate change research, education and planning.
“If the park service is not allowed to even talk about climate change, I don’t know what they would do,” said Clement, who participated in an Acadia climate change scenario planning workshop in October 2015, which she found to be one of the best park workshops she’s attended in years.
“By our nature, I think we are hopeful things won’t be as terrible as people say,” she said. Nevertheless, the Friends of Acadia wrote on Jan. 17 to both of Maine’s US Senators, Angus King and Susan Collins, asking them to question President Trump’s EPA administrator nominee Scott Pruitt about his previous denials that humans contribute to climate change, and expressed the membership’s concern that he has previously fought the EPA on carbon emission reduction.
King has since come out against Pruitt’s nomination. Collins has yet to take a stance.
NPS and Acadia climate change efforts include research, planning
Acadia has been viewed as particularly vulnerable to climate change, not only as a result of sea level rise, but with warming temperatures affecting plants, animals and the seasons, and projected increases in visitation.
For the record, here are links to some of the NPS and Acadia climate change research and other resources that can be found on the Web – still live as of the writing of this blog post:
If you find that any of the above links have become inactive or are taken down, you may be able to go to an Internet archive known as the “Wayback Machine,” type in or copy and paste the above URLs, and get to the information.
And if you missed the chance to read about climate change on the official White House page under the Obama administration, you can go to the official archived site and download the information there.
Once the Sieur de Monts Nature Center reopens in May (weekends only, then daily from June through early September), you can see the climate change exhibit, which is meant to be a permanent installation, according to Acadia’s Kelly.
For the record, here are some of the photos of the exhibit that we took when we visited last May, in case the exhibit does end up being changed under the Trump administration.