Press Release Feb 4, 2019

Parks Group Rejects Nomination of David Bernhardt for Interior Secretary

We have serious concerns with the nomination of David Bernhardt for Interior Secretary and cannot support someone who doesn’t have the best interest of our parks, wildlife, air and water in mind. 

Washington, D.C. – Today, nearly two months since announcing Ryan Zinke’s departure amid mounting criticism over his policies and management of the Interior, President Trump nominated the acting secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI), David Bernhardt, to lead the agency.

As Interior Deputy Secretary, Mr. Bernhardt has shown a clear pattern of anti-conservation decisions from willfully ignoring science-driven policy to aggressively pushing the administration’s “energy dominance” agenda and blatantly disregarding the fundamental duties of the National Park Service to ensure our nation’s most precious natural and historic places are protected. Mr. Bernhardt has and will likely continue putting private interests above the protection and health of our public lands, wildlife and DOI personnel. These are not the actions the American people expect from their Interior secretary, the steward responsible for protecting our most treasured public lands and implementing laws and policies that keep national park air and water clean and healthy for visitors and local communities.

Mr. Bernhardt’s conflicts of interest, industry ties and questionable judgment, especially during the recent government shutdown when he instructed parks to remain open to the public even after widespread damage was occurring to the natural and cultural resources he is charged with protecting, make him unfit to lead the Department of the Interior. NPCA cannot support Mr. Bernhardt’s nomination as he would continue to put our nation’s most inspirational and iconic places at risk.

Statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association:

“We have serious concerns with the nomination of David Bernhardt for Interior Secretary and cannot support someone who doesn’t have the best interest of our parks, wildlife, air and water in mind. Our national parks need and deserve an Interior Secretary who will ensure that our nation’s most treasured places are preserved unimpaired for future generations. Someone who will stand up for what is right for public lands in the face of political and industry pressures, and who is committed to working with tribes, local communities, conservation groups and the American people.

“Instead, Mr. Bernhardt has picked up right where former Secretary Zinke left off, rolling back protections for our public lands by expanding oil and gas drilling at all costs, and undermining some of our country’s most vital bedrock environmental laws including the Endangered Species Act. As we did with Mr. Zinke, NPCA has given Mr. Bernhardt a chance to follow through with his commitment to steward our public lands, but he has shown no interest in putting the agency and our national parks back on track.

“Our National Park System is more expansive, diverse and reflective of the American story than ever before. But it’s also a system facing many challenges, including threats from climate change, overcrowding, encroaching development and billions of dollars in needed repairs. And now, after the longest shutdown in US history, parks are dealing with a massive cleanup due to acting Interior Secretary Bernhardt’s irresponsible decision to keep parks open with minimal staff.

“Mr. Bernhardt’s loyalties to the fossil fuel industry and his efforts to recklessly expand oil and gas development continue to put public lands owned by the American people at risk. With these actions, our national parks could be surrounded with poorly-planned, harmful industrial development. Even during the government shutdown, Bernhardt continued issuing permits for oil companies to drill on public lands, without adequate public input and federal oversight.

“The Interior secretary is a position heavy with stewardship responsibilities, overseeing nearly 500 million acres of federal lands and more than 1.5 billion acres of offshore waters. We will continue to fight for our national parks and public lands so that future generations can experience and learn from them, the same way that we do today. The next Secretary of the Interior must do the same. We call on the Senate to oppose his nomination.”


About National Parks Conservation Association Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit