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Official who improperly helped Redskins owner cut down trees picked as National Park Service deputy director

A branch of the Potomac River at the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park in Maryland. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

A former National Park Service official who improperly helped Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder cut down more than 130 trees to improve a river view at his Potomac, Md., estate has been chosen by the Trump administration to be one of the agency’s highest-ranking leaders.

According to an internal email circulated at the Department of the Interior, P. Daniel Smith will assume the agency’s deputy director position on Monday. He is expected to replace acting director Mike Reynolds, whose 300-day term has expired.

The selection was first reported by National Parks Traveler. Interior and the Park Service did not respond Friday to multiple requests for a comment. “We have a new political appointee,” Lori K. Mashburn, Interior’s White House liaison, announced in the email obtained by The Washington Post. “Dan should be a familiar face at NPS. He most recently served as Superintendent of Colonial National Historical Park.”

Before that superintendent’s role, Smith was a special assistant to the Park Service director. And it was in that position that he intervened in 2004 to help Snyder remove the trees from a hillside between his estate and the C&O Canal and plant saplings to improve Snyder’s view of the Potomac River.

Smith pressured lower-level officials to approve a deal that disregarded federal environmental laws, harmed the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park and left the agency vulnerable to charges of favoritism, according to an Inspector General report.

The decision should have been left to park biologists and horticulturists, the report said. The Park Service’s horticulturist told investigators  that clearing the area made it more likely that nonnative, invasive species would eventually flourish on the hillside and cause erosion.

After the report revealed his work on Snyder’s behalf, Smith transferred to the park that manages Historic Jamestowne, the Yorktown Battlefield and the Colonial Parkway in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. He retired in 2014.

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