John Norbeck, head of Pennsylvania’s award-winning park system, said the current administration forced his resignation last week because of “philosophical differences,” including his opposition to commercial timbering, mining and Marcellus Shale gas drilling in the parks.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that his departure comes on the heels of recent criticism of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources by Paulette Viola, a longtime Citizens Advisory Committee member, about its lack of transparency on resource extraction issues and amid reports of widespread morale problems.

In a phone interview from his home, Norbeck, 56, said he received a termination letter from the state’s human resources office on Oct. 1, informing him that his last day of work would be Friday, Oct. 5, but “if he wanted to tender his resignation it would be considered.”

On Wednesday he agreed to resign and asked for, and was granted, a two-week extension, through Oct. 19, to prepare a transition document for a new parks director.

In response, State Rep. Camille “Bud” George, Democratic chair of the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee, called for a hearing into the resignation of John Norbeck as director of the Bureau of State Parks within the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“I have asked the Republican chair of the committee to schedule a hearing as soon as possible to probe the troubling and apparently forced resignation of John Norbeck as director of state parks,” said Rep. George, D-74 of Clearfield County. “The state parks and forests belong to the people of Pennsylvania, and the committee has a duty to oversee and protect those lands.”

Rep. George noted that while time is running out on the 2011-12 legislative session, responsibilities to the public are not on a timer.

“I was willing to give the Corbett administration the benefit of the doubt and wrote to DCNR Secretary Richard J. Allan last week asking for his explanation of Mr. Norbeck’s departure,” Rep. George said. “When the news broke, the administration said that, ‘Any assertion that there’s a connection between John Norbeck’s resignation and natural resource development on state land is totally without merit.’