“Sorry folks, America’s closed. Moose out front shoulda told you.”
This Facebook meme, posted by Chevy Chase with John Candy’s image from “Family Vacation,” has become a sad reality for most people trying to visit Federal lands. The government shutdown, which began Sept. 30 as current funding expired, has far-reaching effects in the outdoors.
As of Oct. 1, USA.gov states that “every one of America’s national parks and monuments, from Yosemite to the Smithsonian to the Statue of Liberty, will be immediately closed.”
It’s bad news for hunters and anglers as all 561 national wildlife refuges and 368 national parks are now closed to the public, and only certain essential personnel, like those attending to wildlife and or protecting human life or property, remain on the job.
Fish and wildlife management activities and public programs have been cancelled, and that includes all hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, environmental education, interpretive, camping, hiking, and boating activities occurring on refuge lands and waters, the USFWS says.
There are, however, 155 national forests and 2,400 Corps of Engineers recreation areas along with Bureau of Land Management areas that might remain accessible for hunting and fishing. Some of these non-regulated public lands won’t be closed, but check with your state game and fish departments on what is accessible as those violating the order to keep out could face federal charges.
The shutdown primarily affects “gated (national) parks,” Idaho Stateman’s Rocky Barker writes. "Thus, if there is a park or federal campground or rec site that has a ticket booth where you pay for access, etc., those are shut down.”
Reports state that approximately 7,825 of the USFWS's 9,551 employees will be furloughed by Oct. 5. Nearly 24,000 of 28,700 Forest Service employees and 10,250 of 10,800 BLM workers will also be sidelined during the shutdown.
The shutdown has already affected the search for a missing woman in Idaho’s Crater of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. But 10 park service rangers who have been furloughed volunteered to help search for a physician.
Campers at all the national parks had been given a time frame, usually 48 hours, in which to pack up and leave.
The National Park Conservation Association estimates that $30 million will be lost each day these public lands are padlocked. Trevor Kincaid, director of the Center for Western Priorities, said it’s horrific timing for hunting communities as fall hunting seasons ramp up.
"The locks on the gates will not only make for bitter memories, but will also mean that local hotels and restaurants will be empty, shops and guide services will lie dormant, and millions of dollars that communities need will be lost," he said in a release.
The shutdown also put a stop to forward movement on issues like proposals on wolves and meetings about trout management.
The USFWS postponed public hearings this week in California and New Mexico on its proposals to list the Mexican wolf as endangered and delisting the grey wolf elsewhere.
Trout Unlimited is reeling as its once-every-three-years Wild Trout Symposium in Yellowstone National Park will most certainly be cancelled as that park is closed. Going on its 40th year, the symposium brings together the best international experts on wild trout science and restoration techniques.
Though thoroughly disappointed with the government, TU has this message it hopes will spur members of Congress:
“As we cooperate with local, state and federal governments, landowners and industry representatives every day, we hope that Congress can do likewise and restore funding for these vital operations. This government shutdown is a stark reminder that our nation’s parks and monuments have a very real economic value to Americans from coast to coast, and that the government's role in managing those lands on behalf of all Americans cannot be underestimated. TU hopes this reminder will spur Congress to act and provide the funding to sustain the traditions treasured by the nearly 40 million Americans who hunt and fish.”
The state of Indiana went on the offensive, releasing a statement that its 24 state parks and eight reservoir properties will remain open for what is primetime in the outdoors.
“October has become like the busy month of July for our parks and reservoirs," Ginger Murphy of the DNR Division of State Parks & Reservoirs said. "If weekends are full at your favorite state park or reservoir, camping on weekdays during your fall break is a great way to enjoy the outdoors."