The US Department of the Interior pulled two climate-change experts expected to participate in a tour of Glacier National Park with Mark Zuckerberg, just days before the Facebook CEO arrived, The Washington Post reported.
The employees — Glacier Park Superintendent Jeff Mow and US Geological Survey research ecologist Daniel Fagre — have both been outspoken about climate change and its effects on the park.
It was an unusual move for the Interior Department, which oversees US national parks, The Post said, adding that the Interior Department also instructed the park’s staff not to post about Zuckerberg’s visit on social media, and to refrain from sharing the post Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his own account — which mentions climate change.
Normally, a mention from a high-profile figure like Zuckerberg would be considered positive and share-worthy, bringing attention to the park, The Post reported.
Discussions about climate change are not unusual at Glacier National Park, due to its receding glaciers and melting ice fields. Business Insider reported that the park once had 150 glaciers, but as of 2017, only 26 remain.
According to The Post, the park had been deliberating with the Interior Department for days about the agenda for Zuckerberg’s visit, given his vocal criticism of President Trump and Trump’s decision to pull the US from the Paris climate agreement. Citing three sources with knowledge of the decision, the newspaper said Interior Department press secretary Heather Swift was outspoken about keeping Mow, the Glacier Park superintendent, off the Zuckerberg tour.
Swift told The Post in an email that the park was limiting the number of people around Zuckerberg to save park funding, arguing: “A number of Park rangers were made available for the celebrity’s personal tour but allocating such extensive government resources to a celebrity would have been a waste of money and a disservice to average park-goers.”
However, Mow told The Post that he regularly greets prominent visitors, and it would be normal for him to build a relationship with someone like Zuckerberg to raise awareness for the Parks Service.
Facebook spokesperson Derick Main told The Post that Zuckerberg was “unaware of any of this.”
Main said Zuckerberg “had a great visit to the park and got to meet with a team from the National Park Service who were all very open and knowledgeable about the role that climate change is playing in the decline of the glaciers in the park.”
The current head of the Interior Department is Ryan Zinke, a former representative from Montana. Zinke supports coal development on federal lands, and wants to expand tax credits to include coal-fired power plants. He has admitted the climate is changing and cited humans as an “influence,” however, he gave misleading facts about climate change and policy in a government hearing in June.
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