The nomination of David Bernhardt for the position of Secretary of the Interior represents a serious threat to our national parks and public lands, including the three units of the National Park System and eleven national wildlife refuges in Maine.  

My wife is a third-generation native of Caribou; I am from away. We met over 25 years ago when we both worked for the National Park Service on the other side of the country. Since then we have visited Maine frequently and as our family grew, summer vacations in Maine and holiday trips to Caribou have become a family tradition. When I retired after a rewarding thirty-four-year career with the Park Service, we happily moved to Maine so our boys could finish growing up here and now this wonderful state feels like home to our family.  

David Bernhardt

Since I retired, I have been an active member of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, an organization with more than 1,600 members representing nearly 40,000 years of experience in protecting and managing America’s most precious and important natural and historic places. Many of us have worked with Mr. Bernhardt in his various roles at the Department of the Interior (DOI) over the years, and have become familiar with his troubling policy focus, questionable management priorities, and ethically dubious relationships beyond DOI. 

Mr. Bernhardt’s obvious devotion to the energy industry is resulting in a massive expansion of oil and gas development throughout the west, including parcels adjacent to national parks. He has removed protections for public lands and supported shrinking national monuments. He is championing a drastic rewrite of the Endangered Species Act that would result in new regulations that will threaten the long-term protection of listed species. If confirmed as secretary,  

Mr. Bernhardt’s priorities will result in long-term and possibly permanent damage to the irreplaceable resources protected by our national parks and public lands. 

These concerns are compounded by Mr. Bernhardt’s ongoing and widely-known conflicts of interests. He was recently named by the Center for American Progress as the “most conflicted” member of the president’s cabinet in his role as acting Secretary of the Interior. 

These conflicts of interest are particularly relevant to those of us in Maine. Our state is home to over a half million acres of national parks and public lands. We value our access to public lands and benefit from the boost that tourism and outdoor recreation enthusiasts bring to our local economies. We believe strongly in the continued protection and preservation of our outdoor spaces.  

Mr. Bernhardt, who has racked up a conspicuous record of anti-conservation and anti-park decisions during his time with the Trump administration, is not the secretary that Maine or the country needs. What we do need is a Secretary of the Interior who is dedicated to protecting our parks and public lands. We need an advocate, someone who will work tirelessly to ensure that Maine’s irreplaceable resources are preserved and protected for our use today, and for the enjoyment of future generations. Mr. Bernhardt is not that person and I strongly encourage Maine’s Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King to oppose his nomination.  

Mike Murray is a retired National Park Service employee and member of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks. He lives in Brunswick. 

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