As President Donald Trump orders a partial government shutdown while trying to get funding for a border wall, the effect on the country’s national parks is serious.
While Trump insists that $5 billion be included for the border wall, the national parks are without staff to keep things ticking over. National parks are delicate systems that protect some of the country’s most precious natural areas, and they rely on the hard work of park staff to keep things running smoothly. Leaving parks without proper staff is like leaving a museum open with no-one guarding its most important artifacts. Here are the effects of the Trump government shutdown on the country’s national parks:
Closed for Business
The Department of the Interior has been trying to keep the country’s national parks accessible during the partial shutdown period. However, a third of the country’s national treasures are closed for business, and this includes parks, museums, and cultural sights such as Presidential homes.
As hundreds of thousands of federal employees are furloughed, many of America’s national parks have been left largely unsupervised. Some national parks have been able to fall back on funding and state budgets to keep a skeleton team of staff on hand. There is a whole range of employees that help to keep parks protected and things running smoothly, from trash collection through to water services, bus services, park rangers, and emergency teams. With reduced staff, keeping the parks open is a risk, and some people feel it would be safer to close the parks altogether.
With less staff comes the danger of unprotected national parks and resources. As there are fewer people available to help protect the parks, many of the visitor services are closed. So if you’re on holiday hoping to see some of the incredible natural wonders of the country, you might not be able to do so.
So far, the consequences are things such as huge amounts of uncollected trash that has accumulated, which is dangerous for the parks’ wildlife system, roads blocked with uncleared snow, artifact theft in remembrance parks, accumulation of human waste in toilets, and general threats to wildlife and the ecosystem.
Danger, Health and Safety
With limited staff on hand, there is a higher risk of accidents, danger, and health and safety concerns. Staff shortages could impact search-and-rescue delays, which makes activities such as hiking, boating, and kayaking more dangerous. Without staff to keep a close eye on visitors, there’s a greater chance that accidents can happen or that people can get lost. As it is winter time, and many of the parks are experiencing cold weather, the staffing shortages make protecting the park even more difficult. Meanwhile, in terms of health and safety, park toilets are overflowing and some of the parks have had to shut down toilets altogether.
The shortage of staff also gives people with bad intentions the opportunity to cause damage to the park. While most people are respectful of nature and the parks, there are sadly some people who are not.
National Parks are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars daily due to the dip in visitors and revenue. Visitor revenue is key to protecting many of the country’s national parks, and the financial loss will have severe effects.
The Effect on Local Communities
Alongside large financial losses to the parks themselves, the nearby communities surrounding the parks are also suffering. There are tons of local businesses that rely on park tourism, such as restaurants, hotels, and souvenir shops. During the partial shutdown, the local businesses are experiencing a loss in revenue due to the lower footfall.
The Trump government shutdown means that only a small percentage of park workers can continue working, while the rest are furloughed. The national park service employs around 20,000 people, with a percentage currently reporting for duty. Furloughed federal employees have, during past shutdowns, received back payments, however, this is not guaranteed. This means that many park workers, alongside federal employees throughout the country, will be living in a period of financial uncertainty.
All in all, the situation is grim and onlookers hope the situation resolves soon and the country’s national parks receive the care they deserve.