Updated: NPCA Names Former Bush Administration Interior Official To Board Of Trustees

Editor's note: Updates with comment from Theresa Pierno, executive vice president of NPCA, reaction from the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, and adds that Mr. Kempthorne no longer is on the board.

A former Interior Department official under the Bush administration has been added to the National Parks Conservation Association's Board of Trustees, bringing to the group valuable perspectives and skills that can benefit the parks, the advocacy group said Thursday.

During her tenure in the Interior Department, Lynn Scarlett at times drew criticisms from conservation groups and former National Park Service employees for her actions in office. A former president of the Reason Foundation who called for "incentive-based programs to encourage private sector stewardship of our land and natural resources," Ms. Scarlett as deputy secretary supported boosting the cost of an annual entrance pass to the national parks from $50 to $80 and expanding the use of the pass across the federal landscape.

She also made the Interior announcement in 2008 that the administration would remove from the Endangered Species List wolves in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, a decision later overturned by a federal judge. And she was said to be a supporter of the "core ops" budgeting approach for the Park Service, an approach that current Park Service Director Jon Jarvis discarded for being an unwise approach to budgeting.

But during her time with the administration she also worked hard behind the scenes for the parks, said Theresa Pierno, NPCA's executive vice president.

“I think a lot of people, there’s a lot they don’t realize about Lynn Scarlet. She worked very closely with us and worked with us on the Park Service budget," said Ms. Pierno, explaining that Ms. Scarlett lobbied then-Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to increase the National Park Service's budget.

Additionally, Ms. Scarlett in 2006 worked against efforts in the Interior Department to drastically rewrite the Park Service's Management Policies to the detriment of the parks, the NPCA official said during a phone call from her Washington, D.C., office. “They were a pretty big deal. We obviously put a lot of time an energy into them," said Ms. Pierno.

Ms. Scarlett also was instrumental in pushing for changes to the Tamiami Trail, a highway that links Tampa and Miami, to alleviate blockages to the natural flow of water through the Everglades, and pushed for the Interior Department's climate-change task force, said Ms. Pierno. More recently, the former deputy secretary has been aiding NPCA's efforts to see creation of a "Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area" along the Texas coast.

"We are non-partisan and we believe it’s very important to have the diversity that the country has and represents. We need to have viewpoints at the table and certain expertise. So we really strive to have that makeup of our board," Ms. Pierno said. “She brings some unique perspective to our board. It’s a very diverse group and makes for very rich discussions and at the end of the day makes the NPCA a stronger organization because of it.

“The thing they all share is the love for our national parks, and that really does transcend political lines.”

At the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, reaction to the appointment was reserved.

"The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees is hopeful that Lynn Scarlett ... will develop a much deeper understanding of the multitude of issues and challenges facing our country's 398 national parks," said Maureen Finnerty, who chairs the Coalition's executive council. "We encourage her to follow the lead of her fellow NPCA board members and fully support the mission and employees of the National Park Service.

"We send her our congratulations and look forward to following her contributions to the work of NPCA."

While NPCA had added Mr. Kempthorne to its board back in 2010, he later left the group due to workload conflicts.

Currently, Ms. Scarlett works as Visiting Scholar and Co-Director of the Center for Management of Ecological Wealth at Resources for the Future on issues pertaining to ecosystem services, landscape-scale conservation, and climate adaptation.

From 2005 to 2009, Scarlett served as Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Prior to that, she worked for four years as the Department’s Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget. She also served as Acting Secretary of the Department for two months in 2006.

Ms. Scarlett initiated Interior’s Cooperative Conservation Task Force in 2002 and chaired the Department's Climate Change Task Force. She oversaw development of a federal guidance on adaptive management.

Ms. Scarlett now serves as co-convening author of the Decision Support Chapter of the National Climate Assessment and is the author or co-author of recent publications on climate change adaptation; urban greening; large landscape conservation; conservation provisions of the Farm Bill, the Endangered Species Act, offshore oil issues; and ecosystem services.