HCN's Coverage of the Federal Shutdown
The following comments were posted in response to Jonathan Thompson's blog, "The shutdown hits the West harder." Thompson considered the region's high percentage of federal employees and uninsured.
It's not just feds who are furloughed
Thank you for pointing out that the furloughed employees are not all in Washington, D.C., and are not all "federal" employees. I run a small nonprofit conservation organization, the Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition. Our mission is focused on landscape health throughout the West. We partner often with the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, which means that is where a large portion of our funding comes from. The ignorance in Washington resulted in me having to "furlough" seven employees and stop work on projects involving two contractors, which impacted another five individuals directly. None of these individuals will get back pay. Our delegates need to wake up and do the job they were elected to do: Govern. Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch was correct: "Shutting the government down is not governing." It is acting like a little kid that didn't get his way and takes his toys home. Washington, get back to work so the country can get back to work.
Campers with no place to go
Besides all the shutdown's other effects, the closing of campgrounds on Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service land is sending a lot of otherwise homeless people out to find someplace else to park. Retirees, homeless and unemployed people make up a high percentage of campers, many of them on a circuit: They winter in and around Quartzsite, Ariz., head north for the summer and return, taking advantage of low rates for unimproved camping, especially in BLM campgrounds that offer seasonal rates. These camps are set up in part to reduce dispersed camping on public lands, where minimal staff can't keep track of who's doing what or enforce regulations to protect the resource. Campgrounds give people a sense of security, along with bathrooms and fresh water and a safe place to build fires. With the campgrounds closed and the weather still too hot in Quartzsite and Havasu City, these people are driving away with little idea of where to go, or resources to create other options. Expect to see parking lots at big-box stores blossom with motorhomes, trailers and tents, not to mention the access roads leading to locked gates in front of empty campgrounds.
The following comment was posted in response to Katie Mast's blog, "Trickle-down effect of the federal shutdown," about the impact on tourism-based economies, science and research, and tribes.
Dollars down the drain
My hiking buddy and I had a Grand Canyon permit for a backcountry trip off the North Rim that was to have begun on Oct. 5. The National Park Service cancelled it on the 2nd. When I called the Jacob Lake Inn to cancel our lodging reservation, they said they had received over 500 cancellations because of the shutdown and closure of the park. While the North Rim concession and campgrounds at the Village were going to close for the season on Oct. 15, there are still a lot of visitors until snow closes the main highway and Forest Service roads. Those are tourist dollars communities simply won't see as part of their annual revenue. I can't imagine what the impact must be on the much larger tourist economy at the South Rim gateways, Tusayan and Cameron. Absolutely no positive feelings in my household for Boehner, Cruz or the other idiots who have hijacked the Republican Party.
The following comment was posted in response to Emily Guerin's Oct. 15 blog, "States pay to re-open national parks and fuel anti-feds fire," on the deal Utah, Arizona and Colorado struck to re-open parks with state and private money. Read it here: hcne.ws/reopenparks.
A shout-out to federal employees
One point that gets lost in all this bombast is that employees of the National Park Service, BLM, Forest Service, etc., have specialized training and usually college degrees that help them do their jobs. Many Utah leaders seem to believe that anyone off the streets or the ranch can enforce park rules, manage recreation and wildlife, and interpret unique resources on a day's notice. My department at Utah State University has been teaching wildland recreation management for 80 years. Many hundreds of Utah-born graduates have used that education in successful careers with federal agencies. It's extraordinarily frustrating to see how they're disparaged by "neighbors" who blame them for being unwitting victims of political shenanigans in Washington, D.C.