The government shutdown is big news right now, as we near the fourth week of halted federal operations. One big concern rising in the outdoor industry is the state of our federal lands, including national monuments and parks.
Reports have surfaced in recent weeks of surges of visitors in parks without functioning services - stories of overflowing trash cans and bathrooms, violations of park regulations, and permanent destruction to the land occurring while these parks are unstaffed. While the shutdown might seem like a time to take advantage of fee-free adventuring, here’s how you can avoid being part of the problem and help reduce the impact on our public land.
Check Your Closures
Every federal park is dealing with the shutdown differently: some are closing altogether, some have limited services. Check the status of your local federal lands here, and learn whether your park is fully closed or remaining somewhat operational. Keep in mind that most visitor services (road maintenance, restrooms, trash services, etc) are not available during the shutdown and should not be relied upon if visiting national parks, monuments, US Forest Service or BLM lands during this time. However, consider avoiding all national parks during the shutdown to avoid adding stress to the land and staff that’s already flooded with visitors, trash, and human waste. The best way to avoid harming these areas is to avoid them.
Discover Your Local Public Lands
While the federal government is shut down, there’s still plenty of public land open to exploration. The shutdown is a great opportunity to visit and support your local state, county, and city parks - which are fully functional as they are not federally managed. These public lands are often less crowded, and some are dog friendly so your whole family can come along on the adventure. Enjoy your day in the outdoors knowing you’re not going to be the next subject of an Outside article about the desecration of federal areas.
If you must visit a federal park during the indefinite shutdown, consider visiting as part of an organized volunteer cleanup. Many volunteer organizations have mobilized to pick up trash, educate visitors on leaving no trace, and stocking bathrooms with supplies. Search for cleanups in your area online or create your own Facebook event and share with friends. A little effort can go a long way while NPS workers are furloughed, and small cleanup efforts can grow into full-scale events with the help of social media.
As outdoor enthusiasts, we want to keep our public lands functional for adventures to come. If we help relieve the stress on these areas during the government shutdown, we can lower the risk of damaging our favorite places irreparably. And who knows, you might discover your new favorite state or local park in the process.