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Our favorite stories about public lands and opportunities for you to get involved in protecting your outdoor experiences.


The Long-Term Effects of the Shutdown on Public Lands

Tania Lown-Hecht

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On Friday, the government shutdown finally ended. Over the weeks, we’ve all read about the impact of the shutdown on parks, from overflowing toilets to yahoos with chainsaws.

What’s less discussed is that the shutdown will also have long-term impacts because of what didn’t get done over the last several weeks. Our Joint Policy Shop came together to detail some of these longer-term issues and what it will mean for the coming seasons.

Many parks won’t be able to open immediately. At Rainier National Park, for instance, staff will have significant work to create access to parts of the park, plowing roads, undertaking avalanche work, plowing parking lots, and more. Along with the work involved in reopening and repairing the parks from damage caused by the shutdown, we’re expecting some longer-term impacts from the shutdown, including:

  • Trail building and maintenance on hold: trail maintenance, along with winter grooming, trail signing, rental cabins, toilers, and developing recreation infrastructure has been paused. The backlog in maintenance from the shutdown means that a lot of this work won’t get done right away.

  • Key staffing and services: winter is a key time when the Forest Service and other land management agencies work to hire their summer crews, the people that open campgrounds, groom trails, do maintenance work, provide information to the public, and more. Agencies are already running behind for summer staffing, which will make it even harder to catch up on the work that hasn’t been done.

  • Land planning: many National Forests are in the midst of Forest Planning, which determines what happens on our forests, including where you can mountain bike, build a road, climb, or cut down trees. The shutdown stalled these plans, including many that Outdoor Alliance is working on – Nantahala Pisgah, GMUG, Inyo, Custer Gallatin, R5, Nez Perce Clearwater, Salmon Challis, to name a few.

  • Delayed wildfire prevention: winter is a key time that land management agencies undertake wildfire prevention, including controlled burns to help prevent fires during warmer months. None of these have been happening, which means higher risk of wildfires this summer.

  • Important science: more than a few people in our office check USGS gauges to determine the flow in their favorite rivers. Critical maintenance, monitoring, data validation, and updates to the system weren’t being done, the same with snow science that affects short- and long-term studies.  

We’re relieved that the shutdown is over, but its effects certainly aren’t.

Learn more:

The impact on coastal recreation, oceans, and beaches

The impact on climbers

The impact on backcountry skiing and winter recreation

The impact on mountain towns