Head of NPS climate change adaption program resigns

Head of NPS climate change adaption program resigns
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The woman in charge of studying climate change’s effects on U.S. managed cultural resources for the National Park Service (NPS) has resigned, citing that the administration’s unequal attention to natural resources.

Marcy Rockman, the first person to hold the position of Climate Change Adaptation Coordinator for Cultural Resources at NPS, resigned in early November after seven years in the position.

In her role, Rockman studied the effects of climate change on archeological sites, cultural landscapes and historic buildings and looked to past cultures for guidance on how to address future climate change.


Her job was part of NPS’s Climate Change Response Program, which was created to study how to better understand the effects of climate change on NPS-owned sites and resources.

In a resignation letter she shared on Twitter Thursday, Rockman claimed she routinely saw the agency struggle to offer resources to her area commensurate with its emphasis on natural resources.

“Despite the needs and potentials of cultural resources with respect to climate change across the national park system, and the leadership role the NPS holds in providing cultural resources guidance to federal, state, tribal, and local partners, over the course of my position I’ve seen the NPS repeatedly struggle to support cultural resources at levels commensurate with natural resources.”

The National Park Service oversees management of national parks and refuges. The Trump administration, more recently, has placed emphasis on natural resource extraction, releasing a report Wednesday that championed increased royalty sales from oil and gas drilling on public land.

In a Twitter thread sharing her resignation letter, Rockman wrote that she left over a "series of pressures from the NPS." 

"My reason for leaving is a series of pressures from the NPS that required me to spend ever more time & energy fighting for the right to exist & perform basic tasks," she tweeted Thursday. "Going forward I want my creativity to go fully to climate & heritage, wherever that heritage may be."

Rockman, who developed policy guidance to study and manage the impacts of climate change on various cultural resource sites managed by NPS, also suggested the alleged disparity between the department's support for cultural resources versus natural resources was sexist.

In her letter, she paraphrased one explanation offered to her that said, “When civilization and nature are compared, civilization takes on masculine characteristics and nature feminine characteristics. But when it comes to resources management, these roles flip. Natural resources management is masculine, and cultural resources management is feminine.”

Rockman also warned NPS of operating along gender lines.

“Going forward, I urge the NPS, in the strongest way I can, to pay careful attention to and reduce this contrast as you address the scope and support for both the work of my position and the management of the person or people who fill(s) it,” she wrote.

“In my experience, the NPS approach to gender relationships and harassment does not support the creativity, outreach, and scientific rigor appropriate to effective climate change response.”

The NPS and other Interior agencies have been grappling recently with a culture of sexual harassment and assault among agency staff. Nearly 40 percent of NPS workers reported in a survey last year experiencing sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination.

She is leaving to lead the UN’S International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) to improve representation of cultural and natural heritage in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The panel in October released a dire report that warned that the effects of climate change could soon be irreversible if not addressed.

“Given the urgency for action indicated in the most recent IPCC special report on limiting warming to 1.5C, this work cannot wait any longer,” she wrote.

The Interior referred comments to NPS. NPS did not respond to requests for comment about Rockman’s resignation.