While the government shutdown may seem abstract to many, it has very real and devastating consequences for national parks and the people who care for them.
National parks protect our nation’s culture, wildlife, history, and natural beauty, and we need to protect them in return. During this government shutdown, it is estimated the national parks are losing roughly $400,000 per day in vital income used to support programs and badly needed improvements to infrastructure. We know the parks are sustaining damage that could take years to reverse. In some cases, the damage may be irreparable.
For many people, the shutdown has disrupted a great American experience that only national parks can provide. We turn to national parks to experience spectacular wilderness. Families plan once-in-a-lifetime trips to learn about our history, schools use the parks to extend and enhance the classroom, and kids have “aha!” moments that last a lifetime.
It is not only the parks that are suffering. Dedicated public servants, who care deeply about the resources of these beautiful public lands, work tirelessly to protect the parks and the people who visit them. Not only have they been unable to do their jobs, they don’t know when they will next be paid or the extent of damage they will find once they get back to work.
Gateway communities suffer when people cancel their trips to national parks, impacting hotels, restaurants, tour operators, and other service providers. Nonprofit National Park Service partner organizations like Western National Parks Association (WNPA) suffer too. Headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, WNPA supports 71 national parks across the West. WNPA employs 50 people in Southern Arizona alone and more than 150 people across the 12 states where it operates.
Many WNPA employees are locked out of their work sites and will be subject to furloughs due to the economic impact it is having on our organization. We are losing approximately $67,800 in revenue daily and as of today, we have lost close to $635,000 in gross revenue, which directly impacts the amount of annual aid given to parks this year. This negatively affects our ability to fulfill our mission and support educational programs and research in parks.
National parks will need our support more than ever once the shutdown ends, and every one of us can help mitigate the damage done to them. Visit the parks, volunteer your time, and become a member of and give to associations like WNPA. National parks tell America’s story. It is our responsibility to ensure these remarkable and treasured lands are preserved for everyone, for all time.
James E. Cook is the CEO of Western National Parks Association, a nonprofit partner of the National Park Service since 1938. WNPA supports more than 70 parks across the West, developing products, services, and programs that enhance the visitor experience, understanding, and appreciation of national parks. More information about WNPA can be found at wnpa.org.
Source: Guest Column: Shutdown is disrupting the park experience, AZ Daily Sun, 1/23/2019