In the face of a potential government shutdown later today, Department of Interior has negotiated to keep National Parks and other public lands open.
When the government shut down in 1995 and 2013, the closure of public lands was one of the most visible parts of the shutdowns, and attracted a lot of anger from Americans locked out of their public lands. Keeping parks open is great for Americans who want to maintain access to their public lands, but it’s also a move designed to limit political fallout.
During the last shutdown, Congress attracted a lot of criticism from people affected by public land closures. As one example, groups were barred from putting on the Grand Canyon for what is the trip of a lifetime for many people. We are glad that Secretary Zinke has worked to keep public lands accessible during a potential shutdown. However, we find it ironic that he clearly recognizes how passionate Americans are about their public lands, yet has asked for his own agency’s budget to be cut, sabotaging DOI’s ability to manage these lands effectively.
Decision makers clearly recognize how important public lands are to Americans. This recognition must be reflected in whatever funding deal ultimately emerges. Americans love our public lands and they should be funded at levels that keep them healthy, well maintained, and accessible.