Government Shutdown Impacts on Public Lands

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Viewing 13 posts - 1 through 13 (of 13 total)
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    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    I’d like to hear about some firsthand observations – how is the shutdown impacting the public lands where you recreate? What are your direct observations?

    Stephanie and I are down in Rocky Mountain NP this week, hiking. So far, so good, but efforts to mitigate cleanup etc. are being made by the Foundation and local volunteers. Things are in good shape on the Estes Park side of things here.

    Important to note:

    • Volunteers are taking care of things here.
    • The town is being hit hard due to decreased tourism, based on my conversations with local shop employees.
    • Most of the park users here have been locals, not tourists. And by locals, I mean Lyons, Loveland, and Estes Park – not even Denver/Boulder.
    • The trails are pretty barren. The feeling of remoteness is nice, but based on our past experience, the energy of national-park-enthusiasm doesn’t seem to be worth the tradeoff that the decreased visitation has on people’s livelihoods here.
    • I’ve talked to a number of local Interior employees (furloughed and not) and zero (0) of them think this is a good idea.

    Back up in Wyo, I’ve run into law enforcement rangers up on the Medicine Bow NF and they are not happy about the shutdown, and believe it’s a huge political issue that is costing fed workers – their friends and families – significant harm. I don’t agree with the ideologies of all these guys (they are pro-motorized, most of them!) but it’s clear to me that they are facing some financial challenges in the future. These guys are admittedly pro-trump and also (seem to be) feeling pretty shafted by him.

    Is anyone else experiencing or observing any direct effects of the shutdown on public lands / land management agency employees?

    Have you interacted with any pro-trump feds who are low/middle-class who are OK with the shutdown continuing indefinitely?

    To me, the takeaway is this: these public servants place a higher priority on providing a positive experience for people on public lands than on political issues. That’s very heartening to me!

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    My report from the field, first week of January:

    Grand Canyon NP was open, no admission charged, no nature programs, visitor’s center and backcountry were office closed. Signs indicated that previously issued wilderness permits were valid, that no new permits were being issued, and that law-enforcement rangers were in the backcountry.

    Law-Enforcement rangers were in evidence on the South Rim, handing vehicle issues (it had just snowed).

    Bathrooms were open, stocked with toilet paper, appeared to have been cleaned (I tried to leave everything cleaner than I’d found it), backcountry toilets (1.5-mile hut, 3.0-mile hut, Cedar Ridge, at the River, etc) were open.  Roads were plowed.  Foot paths on the South Rim were snow-blown.

    Shuttle buses were running! including the morning hiker’s shuttle out to Yaki Point / South Kaibab trailhead.

    My understanding is that those services were funded by the state of Arizona.  And that Utah is doing the same for some of their more iconic National Parks.

    There was maybe a bit more litter on the South Rim than usual (which I picked up), but that could might have been clumsy, cold fingers of southerners in 5F to 20F weather (sunny and bright, I had shorts on).
    Concessionaires (lodges, restaurants, that well-stocked super market, etc) were all open.  Mule trains of people and supplies to Phantom Ranch were happening.

    I had hoped to also take the kids to Tuzigoot, Walnut Canyon, and Montezuma’s Castle but they were all closed, understandably – those archeological sites would be very vulnerable to all kinds of idiocy if left un-staffed.  Meteor Crater is actually owned and operated by a private foundation (although it so well done that I’d remembered it as a national monument).  So we swung by there, the botanical gardens in Phoenix and scrambled on rocks in some Phoenix open spaces.

    The situation in Yosemite and Joshua Tree wouldn’t have been so bad if those Superintendents had taken a similar course of (I assume) designating law enforcement rangers as essential personnel (a few well-publicized arrests could have nipped a lot of vandalism in the bud) and if California had kicked in some funding for trash, toilet and trail maintenance.

    I’ve taken 8 flights since then and TSA security-theater checkpoints are still staffed and running.  They seemed less efficient (moving slower for the number of personnel present) and they all looked pretty sullen.  All flights got >1-hour gate holds at SFO Monday afternoon which the pilot said is normal with east winds, although I’ve never had that before.  Anchorage flights seem to be operating normally, but Canadian air-traffic controllers have been ordering pizza delivered to ANC controllers, since the Americans don’t have lunch money anymore.

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    “Have you interacted with any pro-trump feds who are low/middle-class who are OK with the shutdown continuing indefinitely?”

    I’m sure they exist, but even in here in Alaska, pro-trump feds are, IME, an oxymoron.  Someone who went into government service, often to protect the environment or people, aren’t going to be pro-Cheeto.  Certainly the EPA, USF&W, and National Wildlife Refuge personnel I know, from the 20-somethings through the senior staff are all pro-environment, pro-education, and if their work involves hunting and fishing, it is all about sustainable levels of harvest.

    “To me, the takeaway is this: these public servants place a higher priority on providing a positive experience for people on public lands than on political issues. That’s very heartening to me!”

    I also think they place a lot of value on people’s experiences, but I suspect protecting the resource is even higher on their personnel agendas since mistakes there are harder to recover from.

    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Right there

    Already had snow close Lassen. All the campgrounds closed at the end of Sept. Other than no permits in the box it seems the same. The Trinity Alps and Lassen National Forest have nearly no staff as it is.  If it were summer it would be a disaster.

    If I find someone who is pro Trump the conversation ends.

    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    About 10 days ago went for a day hike at Fort Ord National Monument in California. The outhouses were locked (with signs) and the trash cans were overflowing. People were still hiking and mountain biking on the trails – it’s mostly locals anyway & several trailheads have no gates. Didn’t interact with any unpaid BLM employees.

    For New Year’s weekend, friends invited us up to a cabin near Point Reyes National Seashore – a NPS unit with no entry fee and few gates. Told to expect everything closed. We were surprised to find at three trailheads that the outhouses were open but dirty and no TP, with trash cans overflowing nearby. Lots of signs about no services, hike at own risk, etc. Plenty of people on the trails. Saw one LE ranger truck drive by. Saw two large herds of tule elk, which seemed oblivious to the shutdown. Restaurants and shops in nearby towns seemed pretty busy, but I’ve never been there around New Years before.

    Saw signs on the drive up that Muir Woods National Monument was closed to everyone.

    On the drive back, passed by many units of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Stinson Beach beach, Muir Beach, and Muir Overlook were closed and gates locked, with many cars parked illegally on Highway 1, and dangerous moves by cars and pedestrians. Parking chaos in San Francisco around Lands End (which might be normal), with some parking lots closed and others open. Great Beach in SF seemed busy but normal (no gates to close). Fort Funston parking lot closed and gate locked, with many cars parked illegally on a busy highway, and dangerous moves by cars and pedestrians.

    — Rex

    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Right there

    I love it here.

    Diane “Piper” Soini
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Barbara

    Seems like LNT training is needed not just for wilderness enthusiasts but also for the general public. Seriously, every female should learn from her mother how to pee in the woods and not need TP so that if you come to some back country spot lacking a serviceable outhouse you can handle the situation without pollution. And every human should learn how to poop in the woods without needing TP and without polluting the place.

    I haven’t been to any national parks since the shutdown. I am planning a hike in the national forest soon. I expect things there to be same as always.



    Locale: The Cascades

    Just got out of Joshua Tree. We were there for four days, saw no destruction, no garbage, the one rest room we used was clean and well stocked. Didn’t get a chance to chat with any Rangers.

    BPL Member


    Locale: The West is (still) the Best

    Saguaro NP East (Tucson AZ) has a ranger staffing the entrance kiosk giving out general directions and info, but the visitor center/frontcountry bathrooms are locked. Law enforcement ranger types are on duty and imagine some of the higher ups are too, probably backfilling a bit to keep any degradation as minimal as possible.

    W I S N E R !


    Had to alter a backpacking trip this weekend (change starting point) because I didn’t realize the access road to my trailhead was USFS maintained and therefor locked.

    I’m hearing terrible accounts coming out of Joshua Tree right now though.  I have close friends that are regular climbers there.  Many backcountry canyons are getting off-roaded.  ReservationS are not being honored in campgrounds as there are no rangers to enforce them so the camping situation has been tense.  A friend reported a fight that ensued over someone moving someone else’s gear out of a site while they weren’t there to take it.  I’m hearing about lots of drama in this regard, as well as people doing dispersed camping around the campgrounds in sensitive areas.

    The off-roading is very sad; apparently many have seen this as an opportunity to do “once in a lifetime” routes that are typically off limits.  Their damage will last a century.  Tank tracks left by General Patton can still be found in other parts of the Mojave….

    BPL Member


    Locale: The West is (still) the Best

    Caught this looking at conditions at the Mt San Jacinto/Iddlywild area in Southern California (mixed federal and state lands)

    Screenshot Jan 24

    Helps to know which agency owns the parking area if taking an automobile



    US Army Corps of Engineer campgrounds close but campers in the campground prior to shutdown can remain in campground. The rangers take it in stride knowing they will get paid eventually. The check will be in the mail. My wife and I were campground hosts for the past 4 years down in Mississippi during winter months at a Corps campground, the rangers were like family, good times were had 

    robert courson
    BPL Member


    Locale: lake michigan

    A friend was all set to take a guided trip of a few days in the Grand Canyon. Shutdown caused permit slow down. Trip was finally cancelled. Guide company returned money. Everybody lost out on cancelled trip.

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