It is hard to believe that yet again, Congress may lead us into a government shutdown. Congress narrowly avoided a government shutdown on October 1 but we could be faced with another shutdown threat this December if Congress continues to put off negotiations on another agreement to fund the federal government in the year ahead. The results could be devastating for our national parks. Rangers who want to serve the public—the jobs they signed up for—would instead have to turn people away. School trips and weddings would be canceled. Visitors planning once-in-a-lifetime trips to our national parks would be forced to delay or even cancel their plans.
It was just two short years ago that a 16-day shutdown of the federal government forced the closure of all national parks. The shutdown was damaging to visiting families, dedicated rangers already disheartened by the impacts of insufficient budgets, and local businesses who rely on park visitors’ spending.
According to a 2014 National Park Service report, the 2013 shutdown caused:
- Nearly eight million visitors being turned away in October;
- More than 21,000 Park Service employees out of work; and
- $414 million in losses for hotels, restaurants, and other gateway businesses.
Long-term underfunding of the National Park Service has resulted in fewer rangers to greet the public and protect resources, lack of maintenance to roads, trails, and visitor centers, and other infrastructure falling into disrepair. Instead of threatening another shutdown, Congress should invest in our parks so they are prepared to greet the throngs of excited visitors expected for the historic 100th anniversary of the National Park System. NPCA’s fact sheet outlines the needs of the National Park Service for their centennial year and beyond.
NPCA’s letter to Congress outlines the urgency to pass a stopgap spending bill to keep our parks open and avoid a government shutdown, and it also encourages Congress to reach a budget deal that ends the damaging sequester and invests in our parks, the millions of visitors who want to enjoy our priceless heritage, and the local communities who depend so greatly on our national treasures being open and adequately funded.