Yellowstone National Park’s superintendent said an attempt to reassign him to Washington, D.C. may have been “punitive action” by the Trump administration, The Associated Press reports.
Superintendent Dan Wenk announced he was retiring at the end of March next year to avoid reassignment to the nation’s capital.
“I feel this is a punitive action, but I don’t know for sure,” Wenk told TheAP.
The only disagreement between Wenk and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has been over the proper amount of bison to keep in Yellowstone. Zinke believes the 4,000 bison currently roaming Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley is unsustainable and destroying the habitat for themselves and other animals.
“We’re not a livestock operation. We’re managing a national park with natural systems,” Wenk told AP. “We do not believe the bison population level is too high or that any scientific studies would substantiate that.”
The Department of the Interior (DOI) disputes that Wenk’s reassignment was “punitive.” Instead, Wenk’s move was predicated by Zinke’s push to reorganize the DOI in an unprecedented way. Stationing Wenk in D.C. was best for the reorganization and the DOI’s mission, according to the agency.
“The purpose of the Senior Executive Service (SES) is to ensure that the executive management of the government of the United States is responsive to the needs, policies, and goals of the Nation and otherwise is of the highest quality,” DOI spokeswoman Heather Swift told The Daily Caller News Foundation, referring to Wenk’s responsibilities as a member of the SES.
“Senior executives are the highest paid employees in the federal government and signed up for the SES knowing that they could be called upon to work in different positions at any time,” Swift said. “Personnel moves among the Senior Executive Service are conducted to better serve the taxpayer and the department’s operations.”
Another former-DOI employee, Joel Clement, alleged his reassignment last year was in retaliation for speaking “truth to power” on the dangers of climate change. Clement was studying the effects of climate change and helping communities prepare in Alaska when he was reassigned to an accounting position within the DOI and removed from the field. (RELATED: DOI Climate Scientist Thinks His Reassignment Is A Death Sentence To Alaskan Communities)
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