Though the federal government is now open under a continuing resolution, Phil Francis, Chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, urges continued government expediency and offers a note of caution. “We are happy to have National Park Service employees back to work, protecting and interpreting our irreplaceable park resources. However, we urge Congress to act quickly to fully fund the federal government so that the National Park System can reach full operating capacity and park staff can begin to truly assess the damage this record-breaking shutdown has inflicted on our national parks.”
During the partial government shutdown, Coalition members, in coordination with the Institute for Parks, People and Biodiversity at the University of California, Berkeley, conducted surveys of several national parks to ascertain the impacts of the government shutdown on the National Park System. Survey results showed that park operations have beeen negatively impacted across the board.
Delays in seasonal hiring will cause staffing issues as many parks move towards busy spring and summer seasons. Major contract work and research projects came to a halt at several parks in the system, and the use of fee money to temporarily fund operations at some parks will impact the ability to address other long-standing projects for years to come.
The parks have been harmed during this shutdown. Trash and human waste littered the Merced River in Yosemite National Park. Visitors urinated behind closed restrooms buildings at Cape Cod National Seashore. Fragile desert vegetation was damaged due to the use of illegal, off-road activities at Big Bend National Park.
Visitor safety was also put at risk. At Point Reyes National Seashore, there should have been 70 volunteer wildlife docents in park areas with large concentrations of elephant seals. Without docents to keep the public safe from these huge and aggressive animals, which can reach 16 feet in length and weigh over 6000 lbs, the park was forced to close the Drakes Beach area where the male elephant seals had come into the parking lot and were aggressive to the visitors and to cars.
Francis says we are just beginning to understand the true devastation caused by the long shutdown. “The damage assessment in parks is just beginning, and we are still unsure what the next few weeks will bring. Federal employees need to know their paychecks will keep coming so they can begin the extensive cleanup process. We need a stable and fully funded government to protect our parks and our people, not cause them harm.”
A full summary of the national park survey results will be made available next week, in conjunction with Coalition Chair Phil Francis’ upcoming testimony at a hearing with Congressional House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to discuss the National Park Service’s use of recreational fee money to allow some national parks to remain open during the partial government shutdown.
The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks is a reliable, respected, and effective advocate for achievement of the mission and goals of the National Park Service. Recognized as the Voice of Experience, CPANP studies, educates, speaks, and acts for the preservation and protection of the National Park System, and mission-related programs of the National Park Service. More information can be found at https://protectnps.org.
The Institute for Parks, People and Biodiversity at the University of California, Berkeley, bridges between the academic community and people working in parks and public lands to offer real-world solutions to biodiversity conservation, environmental justice and equitable access to the outdoors. For more information: https://parks.berkeley.edu