Dan Wenk, the superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, says he has been forced out of the job by officials in Trump's White House, telling the Associated Press (AP) the decision was "punitive action".
Last week, Wenk announced his plans to retire in March 2019 having been reassigned to a position in Washington – a post he will not be taking up. But it seems his retirement has been hurried along after the acting director of the National Park Service, Dan Smith, gave Wenk this ultimatum:
Move to DC or be gone by August.
"Dan Smith called me with the decision after I sent my proposed retirement plan and I asked him, ‘When do you want me gone from Yellowstone?’ and he said you need to be out by early August,” said Wenk, reports The Guardian.
“Then he said you can still be in Yellowstone as a tourist but you will no longer be superintendent.”
Wenke has been working at the National Park Service for over 40 years, seven of which were as superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, thought of by many as the top job in the National Park Service. The government has been particularly cagey on the issue and have yet to disclose a reason why they have decided to move or, essentially, fire Wenk. Heather Swift, a spokeswoman for the interior department, issued a statement saying “The department does not discuss personnel matters.”
"I feel this is a punitive action but I don't know for sure," Wenk told AP.
The underlying feeling is that this is a politically-motivated decision. It seems to be yet another example of business interests trumping scientific and conservationist concerns – and this particular feud comes down to bison.
Wenk has clashed with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke over the number of bison the park can hold. Wenk says the current population of 4,000 is sustainable. Zinke wants to cut this number to 3,000, which just so happens to be the opinion of cattle industry ranchers in the park's neighboring state, Montana.
"We're not a livestock operation. We're managing a national park with natural systems," Wenk has said on the issue.