WASHINGTON (AP) — A retired park superintendent who gained notoriety after helping Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder cut down trees near his home has been named acting director of the National Park Service.
P. Daniel Smith, a former superintendent of Colonial National Historical Park in Virginia, replaces acting director Michael Reynolds, who clashed with President Donald Trump over photographs showing the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Smith’s promotion Wednesday, two weeks after naming Smith as one of the agency’s deputy directors. Reynolds, whose tenure as acting chief was time-limited by federal rules, was reassigned; his new post is superintendent of Yosemite National Park in California.
On his first full day in office, Trump called Reynolds to dispute widely circulated photos of the inauguration and ordered him to produce additional photographs of the previous day’s crowds on the National Mall.
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Reynolds forwarded additional photos to the White House as requested.
Trump has claimed that up to 1.5 million people attended the inauguration at the Capitol and National Mall, but park service photographs refute that.
An inspector general’s report found no wrongdoing by the park service in the dispute with Trump. The June 26 report also found no evidence to substantiate a complaint that park service officials leaked information about Trump’s phone call to Reynolds to the news media.
A park service official acknowledged asking staff to make sure they did not include crowd-size estimates in any reports on the inauguration, but did so in accordance with longstanding agency policy, the report said. The park service stopped providing crowd estimates in the mid-1990s after a dispute over crowd size at the so-called Million Man March.
Smith gained notoriety a decade ago after helping Snyder, the Redskins owner, cut down trees near his home along the Potomac River. An inspector general’s report said Smith pressured officials to approve a 2004 deal that disregarded federal environmental laws. Smith was an assistant to the park service director at the time.
Zinke said in a statement that Smith “has a strong record of leadership in the National Park Service, both in Washington and on the front lines as a superintendent of a park that tells the stories of some of the most consequential moments in American history.”
Zinke said Reynolds “did an incredible job stewarding our parks through 2017,” notably on combating sexual harassment and discrimination in the agency.
As acting director, Smith will lead an agency with more than 20,000 employees, a nearly $3 billion budget and 417 national park units. The parks attract more than 300 million visitors every year who generate over $30 billion in economic benefit across the nation, Interior said.
Trump has not nominated a permanent director to lead the park service, which has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since former parks director Jon Jarvis retired in January 2017.