“How do we ensure the protection our public lands need is given during a government shutdown? How should they be maintained?”
2019 - Topic 2
January 17, 2019
Join us on Twitter with the hashtag #NatureWritingChallenge to discuss and share the topic Thursday at 8:30 CST. This post was created in one hour specifically for this challenge.
“How do we maintain and protect without any funding? We’ve been doing it for years…”
Shut it down.
I’m a supporter of shutting down public lands with gates as soon as the government shuts down. If we can’t pay rangers and employees to keep it safe and clean, I can’t imagine the general public will do well unsupervised. Don’t believe me? Google news stories about Joshua Tree or Yosemite, two of the most visited parks in the country and see what comes up. Go ahead, I have a minute… I’m sure the articles weren’t all pleasant. The reality of a shutdown is that there aren’t law enforcement agents and employees monitoring these special places thus leaving them wide open to all kinds of behavior. Sure, the people and the bad behavior happen while the government is open, but there are people there to address them. If a state governments want to chip in some cash for operating expenses, I’m all about keeping them open if some form of funding is available to ensure employees get paid and park operations can be covered.
Explore alternative locations.
If your favorite public land spot is closed, there’s probably some alternatives to check out. State Parks are open during a federal shutdown and can offer gorgeous trails and camping. If you’re looking for hiking that you’d normally find within the gates of the parks, check out state or national forests. County and city parks are another great alternative and are probably even closer to home. Plans may be ruined and alternatives may not be exactly nearby, but remember that people are going without paychecks and some are even working without them.
Educate the masses.
We must press on with education. We must start young with education. Every opportunity we get, we need to spread the words of Leave No Trace and other outdoor ethics based pieces of wisdom. We need to speak to the ways of the people who still call this land home, despite government boundaries. We need to respect the land and cultures as well as educate the general public on the importance of the preservation surrounding the Indigenous people of this continent. There is always something to learn and no time like the present to learn it.
It’s time to volunteer and donate as able. Public lands need all the help they can get, shutdown or not. Pledge your time and money to these places you want to see throughout your life and for future generations. Offer to build trails, clean up public lands, and educate the public through various programs. Always keep them clean, but always pick up other trash if able to do so. We’re all in this together. If we come together for the common good, we can achieve great things. Find that special organization building the parks up and help them reach their funding goal or find a way to help raise money for them if you can’t spare the cash. I’m going to try my best to be a part of the solution by helping more when possible and I urge you to do the same.
Another annual pass.
Maybe the fee is already too high for the annual pass? Maybe it’s not high enough? The debate over park entrance fees and the annual pass will never end. What we do know, it all goes to a good cause regardless of the way you pay it. Always pay your public land fees - even (especially) during a shutdown. Buy that annual pass, gift it to your outdoor friends if you can and they can’t. We have to support our public lands, shutdown or not.