by Haley McKey
The government shutdown is wreaking havoc on federal programs across the nation. The agencies, people and programs that work hard to conserve our land and wildlife are no exception. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management Forest Service and more have all taken a hit. Here’s a quick run through of services affected by the shutdown:
Department of the Interior (overall)
A whopping 81 percent of all Interior employees are furloughed. National parks and refuges are closed, education programs are canceled and vital work to manage and protect our natural resources has been delayed. The longer this shutdown continues, the harder it will be for Interior programs to reach their goals when it finally ends.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
All national wildlife refuges are closed and the development of policies for endangered species, strategy for fighting the illegal wildlife trade and other conservation planning has ground to a halt. FWS must delay addressing the needs of vulnerable species and habitats until the shutdown ends– but for many of our endangered species, every second counts. There’s bad news for communities, too: FWS personnel who would normally be available to help respond to disaster situations outside of wildlife refuges won’t be available during the shutdown.
FWS will, however, continue to maintain and care for fish at National Fish Hatcheries and animals at captive breeding facilities. Law enforcement officers, FWS firefighters and wildlife inspectors will all remain on the job.
National Park Service
The National Park Service has furloughed a whopping 21,000 employees and closed all of our national parks, including icons like Yellowstone, Shenandoah, Everglades and Grand Canyon National Park. All educations programs and special events have been canceled and permits for holding events rescinded. People camping or staying in hotels on national park property were given 48 hours to vacate the premises. A limited number of NPS law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency services personnel will continue to work– but at nowhere near the capacity needed to effectively manage our parks and protect wildlife.
Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management, which is responsible for 253 million acres of land, has furloughed 10,200 of its 10, 800 employees. All recreation areas, including campgrounds, visitor centers and concessions are closed and businesses run by outside outfitters with BLM permits are not be able to operate on closed BLM lands. Restoration of rangelands, monitoring of grazing allotments, and work on resource management plans have also been halted.
The Forest Service (which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture) will operate at 41% of its original capacity. The agency will suspend the sale of all types of permits, including recreation, firewood and mineral materials. All national forest recreation sites, offices and visitor centers are closed, and the 41 percent of employees still on the job will be mainly focused on law enforcement and fire control. But at such a reduced capacity, fires and other environmental damage could be more difficult to contain, putting wildlife and habitat at risk.
We can’t yet know what the full extent and impact of the shutdown would be, but it’s clear that every day it continues is a day wasted for our precious natural heritage. It’s time for Congress to step up, do what’s right for our natural heritage and end the shutdown.