Friday, July 21, 2017

Interior officials kept Glacier Park climate-change experts from meeting with Facebook's Zuckerberg

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg toured Glacier National Park
on Saturday. (Facebook photo via the Flathead Beacon)
The Interior Department prevented the superintendent of Glacier National Park "and a prominent climate scientist from participating in a highly publicized visit by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg" July 15, Dillon Tabish and Tristan Scott report for the Flathead Beacon in Kalispell, Mont.

The episode was first reported by Lisa Rein of The Washington Post, who wrote, "The decision to micromanage Zuckerberg’s stop in Montana from 2,232 miles east in Washington, . . . was highly unusual — even for a celebrity visit. It capped days of internal discussions — including conference calls and multiple emails — among top Interior Department and Park Service officials about how much the park should roll out the welcome mat for Zuckerberg, who with the broader tech community in Silicon Valley has positioned himself as a vocal critic of President Trump, particularly of his withdrawal from the Paris climate accord."

Park Superintendent Jeff Mow "is known as a climate expert who frequently tells visitors that the retreating ice sheets at Glacier are evidence of a climate undergoing rapid change," the Post reports. Also barred from meeting with Zuckerberg was "Dan Fagre, a well-known scientist with the U.S Geological Survey who’s conducted seminal research on climate change," the Beacon reports.

Rein reports that the decision was made by Interior press secretary Heather Swift, who told National Park Service staff "not to post anything about Zuckerberg’s visit on its Facebook or other social media accounts, including sharing a Facebook post he wrote during the visit in which he registered his alarm at the shrinking glaciers at the park, according to someone with knowledge of the directive."

In a Twitter post, Swift said, “Allocating extensive government resources at the taxpayer expense to a celebrity would have been a waste of taxpayer money and a disservice to average park-goers.”

The Beacon says the episode was "the latest example" of Interior officials "wading into local matters in Glacier Park. In the last week, Glacier Park officials responded to a mandate from the Interior Department to abruptly alter its aquatic invasive species emergency response plan." The Interior secretary is Ryan Zinke, who was Montana's congressman.

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