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“Rogue” national park Twitter accounts are cropping up by the hour

(Image: The National Parks Service)
(Image: The National Parks Service)

It’s been a weird couple of days for the people who manage the social media for the National Parks Service. Rather than their usual jobs—which mostly seem to involve counting the days until spring and occasionally running a photo caption contest on a picture of an elk—they’ve been drawn into an ongoing battle with the new presidential administration, one that seems to be spawning new “rogue” social media accounts by the hour.

The conflict started three days ago, when @NatlParkService, the official Twitter account of the Service, was briefly shut down after accidentally (or, possibly, “accidentally”) retweeting comments denigrating the size of President Trump’s inaugural crowds. Then, earlier today, the Twitter account for South Dakota’s Badlands National Park was forced to delete several tweets laying out the scientific argument for climate change. The NPS later said that “a former employee who was not currently authorized to use the park’s account” issued the tweets, and that it had removed the messages of its own volition. But it was shortly after the deletions that things started to go “off-road” for the NPS’s image issues.

First, an account masquerading as the Badlands Twitter (using the trick where you use a capital I in your name instead of a lowercase L to look like another user) started sending out facts that were a little more subjective in nature than the previous scientific tweets:

A few hours later, a more visibly rebellious Twitter account joined them, with @BadHombreNPS re-posting the deleted climate change tweets, along with messages from the NPS’s official Twitter account tracking climate change, and other park Twitters that have reported on global warming.

The most interesting of these new accounts, though, is @AltNatParkSer, which is the only one of these rogue accounts currently claiming to be run by active members of the Service. According to its Twitter account description, the group is “The Unofficial ‘Resistance’ team of U.S. National Park Service. Not taxpayer subsidised! Come for rugged scenery, fossil beds, 89 million acres of landscape.” Apparently run by three rangers working at Washington’s Mount Rainier, its users spent the afternoon decrying the censorship of climate change data. (Also, some Independence Day memes ended up in there, too.)

As multiple people have pointed out, there’s no evidence (beyond the initial Badlands tweets) that any of these people have any connection to the National Park Service itself, rather than just being online commenters trying to get their concerns heard by adopting the services as a guise. But there’s something weird enough about the image of rogue park rangers, fighting to keep their workplaces thriving, that makes it kind of fun to believe it’s true:

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