UPDATED 5/15/2017: Story updated to reflect receiving statement from Heather Swift of Interior Department.
The Trump administration has abruptly suspended the meetings of the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission and that of about 200 other federal advisory committees, as part of a broad Interior Department review of land use and management.
That means cancellation of a June 5 Acadia advisory commission meeting at park headquarters to tackle some of the most substantial issues facing the commission since its inception in 1986. And it may also affect a meeting scheduled for Sept. 11 at Schoodic.
Jacqueline Johnston of Gouldsboro, chair of the Acadia advisory commission, said she was “very surprised and disappointed” by the decision, which she found out about last week in an e-mail from Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider, about Interior’s suspension of meetings by federal advisory committees.
The order now puts on hold the advisory commission’s official work on several major topics: Acadia’s acceptance of a private donation of more than 1,400 acres of land for Schoodic Woods without Congressional approval; a controversy surrounding park policy on worm, seaweed and shellfish harvesting in tidal flats; and the park’s transportation plan.
“It’s unfortunate that the commission cannot continue at this point with the good work it does to ensure that the public’s voice is heard,” said Johnston in an interview.
Acadia Superintendent Schneider shared the Interior directive with Acadia advisory commission members in an e-mail on May 9, saying that the department “has commenced a review of federal advisory committees … in order to ensure their compliance with both the Federal Advisory Committee Act and recent Executive Orders. Therefore … committee meetings nationwide scheduled through September 2017 are paused until further notice.”
In e-mailed statement on Monday morning, an Interior Department spokeswoman called the suspension temporary, to allow Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke time to review the “charter and charge” of more than 200 federal advisory committees, including the Acadia advisory commission.
“The secretary is committed to restoring trust in the department’s decision-making, and that begins with institutionalizing state and local input and ongoing collaboration, particularly in communities surrounding public lands,” said spokeswoman Heather Swift in her statement.
“As the department concludes its review in the weeks ahead, agencies will notice future meetings to ensure that the department continues to get the benefit of the views of local communities in all decision-making on public land management.”