With a potential shutdown of the federal government looming, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff and public lands and environmental advocates hosted a press call to discuss the ramifications of a shutdown. It was very apparent from the call that this decision would have a serious and negative impact on federal employees, and critical public health and environmental programs. A shutdown of the government would hamper the government’s ability to protect clean air and water, would cause confusion about the operating status of the national parks and other public landscapes, and disrupt the lives of federal workers just before the holidays.
Leaders of several organizations spoke during the press call, including Phil Francis, the Executive Council Chair of The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks. Francis discussed the impacts of a shutdown on America’s National Parks and NPS employees.
“Our people are committed to the mission of the Park Service, which is to protect and preserve the natural and cultural resources and wildlife therein; to leave them unimpaired for future generations. Our employees are responsible for providing emergency medical services, law enforcement services, and they respond to incidents. They put their lives at risk. So it’s a slap in the face when we’re faced with a government shutdown.”
Other speakers included Jonathan Asher, the Government Relations Manager of Conservation Funding for The Wilderness Society, who discussed the impacts of a shutdown on public lands across the country.
Asher said, “one point to underscore here that we’ve seen under this administration that’s different than in the past is they’re trying to diminish the impact of the bad press around a shutdown by keeping parks half-open which is really the worst of both worlds. Because it’s great to have access for the public to places and we don’t want to be disruptive to the public’s plans, but if we’re opening our public lands without having the proper safeguards in place for both the visitors and the resources then we’re creating really dangerous situations.”
Though it appeared a short-term Continuing Resolution was in the works near the time of the call, that option now seems to be off the table. President Trump has said he would be “proud to shut down the government” and is now threatening that a shutdown “will last for a very long time.”
A full transcript of the remarks can be found here.