A potential federal government shutdown looms, with government funding scheduled to halt on October 1 if Congress isn’t able to come to a funding plan. Another government shutdown, the first since 2019, could threaten the operation and maintenance of National Parks across the country, including Northern California.
Past shutdowns show how the parks could fair during the shutdown, and none of the scenarios are good.
There are 33 park services entities in California. Some include the popular destinations like Yosemite National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Redwood National and State Parks. Others include the less-visited Muir Woods, Lava Beds, and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.
In the 2013 federal government shutdown, large parks like Yosemite National Park were completely closed, blocking visitor access and resulting in an estimated $500 million loss in visitor spending nationwide. This is a scenario that could occur at Yosemite, but probably not likely in the less visited parks like Lassen Volcanic National Park and Redwood National Park.
The 2018 and early 2019 shutdowns kept the parks open, but with staff furloughed and facilities such as restrooms closed, parks suffered from neglect. The lack of oversight and maintenance led to significant trash buildup and damage in parks, incurring additional unbudgeted cleanup costs and damage to the ecosystem. This year’s potential shutdown threatens a repeat of these scenarios, putting the natural beauty and infrastructure of these parks at risk.
Thanks to the government shutdown, national parks like #Yosemite are facing "a free-for-all" with overflowing garbage, human feces and illegal off-roading: https://t.co/5elzj9JDCi (Pic: @MarkFiore) pic.twitter.com/CrMQFr5Ivf— KQED (@KQED) January 3, 2019
For smaller areas like Whiskeytown, the 2019 shutdown didn’t include massive trash pileups, despite the furlough of many workers. For Muir Woods, it was decided to shutdown the park during the final two weeks of the 2019 shutdown to avoid trashing the region.
So, the national park entities of NorCal could face varying impacts in a shutdown:
- Limited Access and Services: Visitor centers, restrooms, and other facilities may be closed, limiting visitor access and enjoyment of the parks.
- Environmental Damage: With reduced staff to monitor activities and perform maintenance, the parks’ ecosystems may suffer. The 2018-2019 shutdown showed how quickly parks can be overwhelmed by trash and vandalism when left unattended.
- Economic Loss: Local economies dependent on park tourism would suffer significant losses. The 2013 shutdown’s effect on visitor spending underscores this concern.
Scott Gediman, a Yosemite spokesman, mentioned that park officials have “no information” on the response to any shutdown, highlighting the uncertainty and lack of preparedness facing park services and visitors.
NorCal’s National Parks are invaluable natural and cultural resources. A federal government shutdown poses serious risks to the preservation, maintenance, and accessibility of these treasured sites, impacting both the environment and surrounding communities.
Let’s hope our government can pull it together this week so we don’t damage our beloved outdoor treasures.