Our Buddy Bison Student Ambassador, Tigran Nahabedian, was recently invited to give a special tour of Channel Islands National Park to the new Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke. In addition to learning about the wildlife and history of the islands, Tigran and Secretary Zinke discussed the importance of our nation’s parks and ways to improve them for the future. Read about Tigran’s account of their meeting below:
“On April 17, 2017 Commander Ryan Zinke came to Channel Islands National Park to learn about the islands, wildlife, history, its use and to talk about how he is going to make the parks a better place. Commander Zinke has the authority and power to help the national parks because he is the Secretary of the Interior. I became interested in Commander Zinke when he was nominated to become Secretary of the Interior and I started to research him, I read his book American Commander and everything I could find about him on the internet. He was the Commander of Seal Team Six, a congressman from Montana and he enjoys hunting and fishing.
I wrote him a letter in January before he was confirmed as Secretary of the Interior and said that I was very excited he was going to solve the deferred maintenance issue in our parks. Deferred maintenance is when something falls into disrepair like a dock or a road and the park managers say we will fix it later because we do not have the money now. It is a huge problem with over 12 billion dollars in needed repairs.
Our national parks are as American as our national flag. Just consider Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty, Fort McHenry and the flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner, the Liberty Bell, and the battlefields that shaped this nation: all of these places are national parks.
Secretary Zinke wrote me a letter and invited me to give him a tour of Channel Islands National Park.
We left from Santa Barbara and went to Prisoner’s Harbor on Santa Cruz Island. We saw dolphins and sea lions on the crossing and I spent the trip across the channel talking to the Secretary, his wife, his staff, rangers and other visitors. I was one of the only people outside of his staff that knew he was going to the islands and it was really special to me because it was National Park Week.
I was able to talk to the Secretary about the recovery of the island fox, the fastest recovery of a mammal under the Endangered Species Act. I gave him a fox photograph to remind him that when we put our minds to solving a problem we can achieve great things with strong partnerships.
We also discussed the deferred maintenance issue, and I showed him pictures from the Channel Islands National Park and Tule Spring Fossil Beds National Monument. Tule Springs is a new National Monument and for years people have dumped trash on the monument lands. The Secretary agreed that this is an easy problem to solve and must be solved.
I left the Islands and returned home feeling that the National Parks are in good hands and confident that the Secretary will help the parks to the best of his ability. His role model is Theodore Roosevelt, and he is fond of quoting the Roosevelt Arch at Yellowstone that the parks are for the ‘Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.’ I am looking forward to working with him again in the future. As Secretary Zinke says, ‘We all rise and fall on the same tide.'”