In order to avoid the chaos and public outrage over national parks and monuments being closed off in 2013 during the Obama administration, the Trump administration announced many public lands will remain open during the ongoing government shutdown.
However, environmental groups that bemoaned the closed parks in 2013 have changed their tune, and are now calling labelling it “dangerous” and a threat to public safety.
“Gates would be open and people could enter, but there would be virtually no staff on hand to protect them or the parks’ resources. It’s an irresponsible way to run parks,” Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), said in a statement issued on Friday ahead of the shutdown.
“Keeping parks open with virtually no staff is a risky situation, and the guidance park staff is being given is vague at best,” NPCA’s Pierno said.
Interestingly enough, Pierno railed against House Republicans for national parks and monuments closing during the 2013 government shutdown.
“The closure of America’s crown jewels threatens the livelihood of park businesses and gateway communities; the more than 21,000 National Park Service staff we expect to be furloughed; and countless American families and international visitors who rely on national parks being open for business to enjoy our national heritage,” Pierno said in 2013.
So, when parks are closed, activists bemoan the lost revenues and lack of access, but when left open, they deride federal officials for endangering public safety.
The Obama Interior Department made the 2013 shutdown as visible and painful as possible, closing off national parks and monuments to keep the public out. For example, officials actually erected barricades around the National Mall and, most infamously, tried blocking World War II veterans from visiting their monument in D.C.
This time around, the Trump Interior Department said the public would still have access to many national parks and monuments. Visitors will be able to enter Yellowstone, Yosemite and other iconic parks, but visitor’s centers, concession areas and other guest services won’t be staffed. Here’s an example of what to expect:
Due to the federal government shutdown, National Parks and all visitor facilities and services managed by the National Park Service in Boston are closed. National Park partner sites along Boston’s iconic Freedom Trail and Black Heritage Trail are open to visitors. pic.twitter.com/Q6CIm8wxTh
— BosAfroAmericanNHS (@boafNHS) January 20, 2018
Now, thousands of Americans scheduled to visit parks or monuments won’t have to cancel their trips, like in 2013. But environmentalists are still unhappy, this time claiming that allowing the public to enter unstaffed parks endangers their safety.
“The reality is that our parks can’t operate without the Park Service,” Jackie Ostfeld, associate director of the Sierra Club’s outdoor campaign, said in a statement.
“Keeping them open without staff is dangerous for both visitors and for the delicate ecosystems in our parks,” Ostfield said. “Risking both visitors and important cultural sites to win political points is the height of irresponsibility.”
But back in 2013, the Sierra Club’s Athan Manuel said “most of our lands remain closed– and that means the continued loss of millions of dollars each day for local communities.”
Likewise, Arizona Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva blasted the Trump administration for keeping the parks open during the shutdown. He told City Lab that “the potential harms to natural and historic resources—and to public safety—are even worse than they’d normally be because this administration is in over its head, is unprofessional, and has no plan in place.”
In 2013, Grijalva railed against House Republicans, blaming them for shutdown and costing his district economic activity.
“Closing Saguaro National Park, the Grand Canyon and the rest of our economic magnets and expecting small businesses to suck it up is not a serious way to govern, and it had to end,” Grijalva said.
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