MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Earlier this year, the Trump administration ordered the National Park Service (NPS) to temporarily stop tweeting. One can assume that this was done, in part, to ensure that the NPS would get the message to stop tweeting anything "controversial' -- like actual facts that might debunk the White House's "alternative facts."
That action was one of the first hints that the executive branch was going to apply its right-wing ideology in administering the National Park Service. That ideological application has grown more apparent with time. One only need look to the growing influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA), a key Trump supporter, on the NPS and its parent, the Department of the Interior. In one telling example, the wife of Wayne LaPierre, the longtime head and chief firebrand of the NRA, has been appointed to the National Park Service Foundation board. As National Parks Traveler reported on August 28,
Susan LaPierre, co-chair of the National Rifle Association's Women's Leadership Forum and wife of NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre, has landed a seat on the National Park Foundation's board of directors.
Mrs. LaPierre was one of four appointments to the board made earlier this year. None of the appointments was announced in a release by either the Interior Department or Park Foundation.
Mrs. LaPierre's appointment by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke leaked out this past week in connection with a story detailing the National Park Service's opposition to a handful of sections in the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, or SHARE Act, that would impact the Park Service's management of fishing and hunting within the National Park System....
In her bio on NRA Women she called herself "a lifelong outdoorswoman who's always believed in the Second Amendment and the NRA." The Leadership Forum she organized a dozen years ago is a "philanthropic society of women who are dedicated to protecting and defending our Second Amendment."
Secretary Zinke is a lifetime member and zealous advocate of the NRA and its claim of unfettered Second Amendment "gun rights."
The Trace, an independent website covering guns and violence in the US, provides some background to the NRA Department of Interior relationship in an August 24 article:
The NRA has sought to align itself closely with Interior officials. The gun rights group forcefully advocated for Ryan Zinke, a Montana Congressman, to lead the department when he was nominated by President Trump. After he was confirmed by the Senate, the NRA called the appointment “good news for gun owners.” Chris Cox, the organization’s top lobbyist, hailed the start of Zinke’s tenure as “the end of a hostile era towards hunters and sportsmen.”
Indeed, in regards to the SHARE Act mentioned above, McClatchy reported that Zinke's Department of the Interior censored career NPS objections to the pro-NRA bill:
The National Park Service has several big problems with NRA-backed legislation that would restrict the agency from regulating hunting and fishing within park boundaries. But according to a leaked memo obtained by McClatchy, the Trump administration has so far prevented the parks from voicing such concerns.
National Park Service Acting Director Michael Reynolds prepared a June 30 memo detailing his agency’s objections to the draft legislation, the “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act....”
Reynolds objected [to specific provisions in the bill] in a memo sent to the U.S. Department of Interior’s Legislative Counsel. The park service later received a response from Interior, with sections of Reynolds’ concerns crossed out, next to the initials “C.H.”
McClatchy provides some background to the pro-NRA bias of the Trump White House:
In this case, the Trump administration is going to bat for the National Rifle Association and sporting groups that have close ties to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Donald Trump Jr. and Trump himself.
“Expanding access to National Parks and public lands for hunting, fishing, and recreation is and remains a top priority of this administration,” said Swift [a Department of the Interior spokesperson].
The NRA and hunting and fishing organizations have lobbied Congress for years to pass versions of the “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act,” also known as the SHARE Act. According to the NRA, the legislation is aimed at improving hunting access on public lands while removing regulations promoted by “animal rights extremists.”
While the NRA generally supports Republican elected officials in campaigns, it does also back pro-NRA Democrats. However, at the presidential level, for decades, it has exclusively supported Republican candidates, contributing significant organizational and financial backing through its Institute for Legislative Action. Donald Trump was no exception.
At the same time that the NRA is touting itself as a "conservationist" organization while promoting expanding hunting rights, it is continuing to engage in incendiary culture wars that align with white nationalism. Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, of Moyers & Company, recently wrote an article about a new NRA video. They entitled their commentary, "NRA Issues Call for White Supremacy and Armed Insurrection: The gun lobby's new 'recruitment ad' is really a call for white supremacy and armed insurrection, deliberately crafted to stir anger and fear":
Take a look at the ad below and ask whether the National Rifle Association can go any lower. Ponder this flagrant call for violence, this insidious advocacy of hate delivered with a sneer, this threat of civil war, this despicable use of propaganda to arouse rebellion against the rule of law and the ideals of democracy.
On the surface this is a recruitment video for the National Rifle Association. But what you are really about to see is a call for white supremacy and armed insurrection, each word and image deliberately chosen to stir the feral instincts of troubled souls who lash out in anger and fear....
Disgusting. Dishonorable. Dangerous. But also deliberate. Everything deplored by the NRA in the ad is committed by “they” — a classic manipulation turning anyone who disagrees with your point of view into “The Other” — something alien, evil, foreign.
This is the NRA that is embedding itself into policy-making related to national parks. The vile exhortations of its recruitment video represent the other side of its growing influence on the Department of the Interior and National Park Service.