Trump taps new chief for National Park Service

Trump taps new chief for National Park Service
© National Park Service

President Trump plans to nominate the current chief of Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park to lead the National Park Service (NPS), the White House announced Friday.

The appointment of Raymond David Vela will fill the agency's top position, which has been vacant since Jonathan Jarvis, who was director throughout the Obama administration, left the post in January 2017.

Vela is a veteran of the park service, having worked 28 years at the agency and most recently serving as superintendent of Grand Teton National Park and John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway. He previously worked in a senior position at NPS headquarters.

If confirmed, Vela would become the 19th director of the service and its first Hispanic director.

“David Vela has demonstrated all of the ideals that the National Park Service stands for, and his long track record of leadership on behalf of the people and places of the National Park Service distinguish him as the right man for the job,” said Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeMontana lawmakers cheer recommendation to ban mining north of Yellowstone Overnight Energy: Navajo coal plant to close | NC dam breach raises pollution fears | House panel to examine endangered species bills Navajo-owned coal plant to be shut down despite Interior push to keep open MORE in a statement Friday. “Our extraordinary national parks will be in the best of hands with David at the helm.” 

Vela would be taking over an agency with a number of unique challenges. The NPS is responsible for more than 400 parks as well as other sites and faces an $11.6 billion maintenance backlog.

The Trump administration is focused on using increased revenues from energy production under the Interior Department to cut down on that backlog, a plan that has bipartisan support in Congress.

The NPS is also working to address decades of sexual harassment and assault which led Zinke to establish a "zero tolerance" policy for employees.

But the agency has still seen new controversies under the Trump administration. In June, the superintended of Yellowstone National Park was removed. He claimed he was pushed out because of a dispute over how many healthy bison should be allowed on the park.

Timothy Cama contributed.

Updated at 3:33 p.m.