Just the Facts: How the Government Shut-Down Effects Outdoor Junkies

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the government shutdown and how it is affecting government employees and national parks across America. Perhaps you don’t know the details of the shutdown (and we couldn’t blame you since it’s a bit confusing), so here’s a brief look at the facts concerning this political upheaval, how it effects our national parks, and how it effects those of us who prefer to hike, climb, and camp rather than campaign, petition, or debate our way through life. 

No Money, More Problems
To put it in simple terms, Congress must agree on how to fund certain sectors of the government. If they can’t agree, then these sections cease to operate. Workers in these sectors are furloughed, meaning that they are out of work with either no pay or their pay is delayed until the shutdown ends. Because the government funds National Parks (albeit with our tax dollars), they are among the many agencies that will close, along with the EPA, immigration services, museums, and the National Institute of Health.

For a more detailed breakdown of what agencies close and which remain open, check out this article in the Washington Post.

Hike, Climb, and Camp On at Your Own Risk
Thousands of tweets and status updates have come through in the past week since the shutdown proclaiming that many people will essentially break the law by continuing to hike, climb, and generally enjoy now closed national parks. To this we say, do so at your own risk for two reasons: 1). Citations are being issued to outdoor enthusiasts who refuse to vacate national park land. 2). If you are injured in a national park during the shutdown and need the assistance of rangers, there may be a delay in getting you adequate help. Moreover, since you are technically breaking the law, there could be legal repercussions and you insurance may not cover the injury (Many health insurances will not cover injuries that occur during acts of protest, civil disobedience, or breaking the law).

When Will it End?
As of right now, it’s completely up in the air. Many experts didn’t think the shutdown would even happen, let alone drag on more than a week. Obama and the GOP have started discussions about potentially raising the debt ceiling, so all that remains is an actual agreement. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. For a more in depth analysis about the current negotiations to end the shutdown, check out this article from CBS News. 

What Can You Do?
In all honesty, not much. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast then make sure that you’re practicing Leave No Trace and not harassing volunteer rangers who may be in the area (It’s not their fault that they’ve been ordered to kick you out). Call your representatives, particularly your congressmen and congresswomen. Ask them what they are doing to end the shutdown. Or you could always Drunk Dial the Government, though we’re not sure how persuasive you’ll be after your 6th beer.

Be patient and, if you do choose to practice civil disobedience by entering national parks, remember that you do so at your own risk and be responsible for packing your stuff in and packing it out. This shutdown is already frustrating enough without adding to the end result more polluted areas of our precious wilderness.

Finally, offer to volunteer with your national parks once the shutdown ends. They may need help cleaning up trash that novice hikers and campers may have left behind.

The Bottom Line:
It’s a bummer that we can’t enjoy our national parks and that many government employees are furloughed, but sit tight and try not to make the situation worse for our parks or rangers in the process.