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The View from Behind the Locked Gate: The Government Shutdown and the National Parks

Credit: M. Trubee / NPCA Photos via Flickr

It’s day twelve of the government shutdown, and the country has settled into a tired routine.  Much of the shutdown discussion seems to have taken on a tone of resignation or half-hearted complaint, as the public watches while efforts at bipartisan talks collapse.  Despite this trend towards passivity from sidelined Americans, there has been a lot of venom out there—some of it terribly misdirected.

I have been appalled at the extent of the vitriol and misinformation that’s floating around, especially regarding the role of the National Park Service in the closure of its 401 units around the country.  Sites ranging from the Liberty Bell to Yosemite have been barricaded to visitors.  Understandably, people are upset about being shut out of America’s most special places.  For many travelers, a big national parks vacation is the trip of a lifetime: a pilgrimage to places of tremendous natural beauty and historic significance, planned for months or even years in advance.  Being turned away at the gate is hurtful and costly.

What makes me shudder, though, is how much of the public’s righteous anger has been misdirected at the National Park Service or the park rangers who love and care for these important places.  To wit:

Brenda Barton, a state representative in Arizona, posted some nasty words on her Facebook page on Monday: “Someone is paying the National Park Service thugs overtime for their efforts to carry out the order of De Fuhrer… where are our Constitutional Sheriffs who can revoke the Park Service Rangers authority to arrest??? Do we have any Sheriffs with a pair?”

Really?  This, from an elected official?  So much for intelligent discourse in the republic.

Increasing numbers of people take pride in what they’re calling “civil disobedience,” disregarding closure notices and barricades—and sometimes choosing to flaunt their bad behavior: ConesAh, yes, the fine line between civil disobedience and throwing a temper tantrum when you don’t get what you want.  Oh, wait—that line isn’t fine at all!

In all seriousness, entering a national park when it is closed can earn you a ticket.  The closures aren’t there because park rangers want them, they are there because they are necessary: as National Parks Conservation Association puts it in their Q&A on the closures, “people who ignore and defy Park Service staff put their own safety at risk and complicate the ability of a skeleton crew of park rangers to protect resources that are regularly under threat…. Even when they are fully staffed, rangers are challenged to prevent vandalism, looting, and even damage to plants and other sensitive resources that visitors can harm accidentally. Part of the challenge is that parks were already short-staffed before the shutdown began due to earlier budget cuts, and now they have even fewer staff to respond to emergent situations. People moving barricades are just going to make the job harder for the few park staff who remain on the job during the shutdown.”

In Maine’s Acadia National Park, a woman ignored a closure sign and barricades, then hurt herself badly enough to require rescue.

Acadia Ranger Ed Pontbriand was quoted in the Bangor Daily News as saying, “We’re so short of staff, we can’t handle major incidents in the park. That’s why we’re asking people to do the right thing and honor the closure.  That’s the best way to preserve and protect the park. If they love the park, help us out.”No one goes into a national park planning to need rescue.  All too often, though, people overestimate their capabilities or get into situations for which they are unprepared.  Accidents can happen to even the best planners, of course, but during the shutdown the risks are higher, and it isn’t clear that people illegally entering the parks understand or care.

All parks with a social media presence posted notices on October 1 that they would not be posting new content for the duration of the shutdown.  The language was brief and innocuous—”Because of the Federal Government shutdown, this National Park Service Facebook page is inactive. We’ll start the conversation again when we get back.”—but has evoked a storm of frothing-at-the-mouth commentary:

  • Reaction posted by one man to multiple park Facebook pages, including those of Glacier and Zion National Parks:  “All Government officials, including everyone in the National Parks Service have an obligation to challenge and disobey unlawful orders. Since NO LAW was passed blocking access to our parks and monuments, these orders are NOT LAWFUL! Therefore All Parks Service employees and any other law enforcement officials enforcing this unlawful lock outs are in violation of our rights, the law, and the US Constitution!”

The commenter clearly misunderstands what constitutes a “lawful order” here. The term usually refers to the ability of law enforcement officials to issue instructions to those who are impeding their operations.  Those who ignore the command can be charged with “disobeying a lawful order.”  That isn’t really relevant in this case. Instead, the commenter is claiming that closing the parks is against the law. Is it?

No. National parks are regulated per the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36, Chapter 1.  Specifically, 36 CFR 1.5 makes provision for closures in national parks: there is nothing written anywhere that says public ownership of the land necessarily entitles full and unimpeded rights of access; indeed, the CFR recognizes that sometimes closures are necessary for the protection of park resources.  Of course, the 1916 Organic Act that created the National Park Service does charge the agency with both preserving and protecting the resources of national parks and “providing for the public enjoyment of the same,” but this is a balancing act.

  • On Yellowstone’s Facebook page: “National parks are closed, but the land and its features are still there. If you already paid for a Nat’l Park pass and would otherwise be able to enter legally and don’t require park ranger resources or the federal government’s help or holding your hand to go camp with your family, who needs a stupid Government Shutdown sign. Go on and enjoy your national parks. Or go enjoy your state parks, which are just as enjoyable in most cases and welcome folks with passes with open arms. Our states would be able to run most national parks more efficiently anyway, in most cases.”

National parks don’t take care of themselves.  Visitation inherently impacts park resources in ways that can degrade the very characteristics that visitors most enjoy—hence the oft-uttered phrase that national parks are in danger of being loved to death.  Managing the people requires people: people to remove trash, prevent or repair vandalism, maintain trails, explain why the rules are the rules (there’s always a reason, and it’s usually a very good one), let visitors know about safety hazards, and so on.  There are a lot of people working behind the scenes to make sure things operate smoothly.  It is overly simplistic to say that wilderness takes care of itself.

As for the assertion that states could do it better, 70 California state parks—a full quarter of the system!—teetered on the brink of closure over the past few years. State parks in Washington, Texas, New York, Arizona, and Oklahoma, among others, have also run into trouble in recent years.  As for privatization … well, perhaps the best examples of why federal protection is important can be found underground. Many caves are protected as part of the national park system.  Many others are in private ownership.  I have yet to visit a privately-held cave that doesn’t have resource damage that makes it pale in comparison with the caves in the park system.

This is not to say that state parks and private lands that are managed for conservation are unworthy. On the contrary, they are great places in and of themselves.  During the shutdown, state parks serve an added benefit, as they make a good alternative destination for frustrated travelers.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that a healthy landscape includes private lands and public lands managed at the local, state, and federal levels.

The BBC reports that “Park rangers ‘bear brunt’ of public anger” in the form of “shouted profanities” and more.

Basic human decency would suggest it’s never okay to bully others, but since that isn’t enough, let’s remember that the skeleton crews staffing national parks right now are not being paid.  There are about 3,000 rangers trying to protect parks that are usually managed by a nationwide workforce of more than 24,000.  Those on duty will be paid when the government opens for business again, but there’s no way of knowing how long that will be.  In the meantime, they’re going without paychecks.  Furloughed employees—about 21,000 of them in the NPS alone—may or may not be granted back pay.  Which brings me to one of my least favorite snarky remarks about the shutdown …

People are saying that the shutdown isn’t really a hardship because furloughed employees are likely to receive pay for the missed time.  Critics love to refer to this time as a “paid vacation.”

When I take vacation time, I am free to travel or spend my time as I wish.  When I take vacation, I clear it with my supervisors so that we can make sure all our staffing needs are met.  Furloughed employees have to wait around in case they are called back to work.  They don’t know when that will happen, and they don’t know if they’ll ever be compensated, much less when.  In the meantime, the bills keep coming in; the family needs to eat.  That is not a vacation.

Rangers want to be able to go to work and do their duty. It is demeaning to be deemed “nonessential” when America’s public lands are one of our most important natural resources.  It is depressing to follow reporting on the shutdown and see how many people just don’t understand what’s going on.  Including, unfortunately, someone who really should:

Watch this now-infamous clip of Congressman Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) telling a park ranger she and the NPS “should be ashamed” of closing the memorials on the National Mall in DC.

Apparently the Congressman has forgotten that it was a lack of Congressional action that led to the closures in the first place.  Neugebauer later issued a non-apology to the ranger, and proceeded to criticize the “Parks Department.”  He doesn’t even seem to know the name of a federal agency for which he shares some responsibility.

There are people calling for rangers to go back to work, unpaid, in protest.  This is insulting and devalues the skills of a well-trained, highly-capable workforce that is already under-compensated.

So, what is there to be done?  Remember that resignation and passivity are the enemy.  A passive, disengaged public is a disenfranchised public.

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64 Comments Post a comment
  1. Theresa #

    very well written Cathy! I am in awe of your abilities. Not only did you make sense point by point but explained it in a way I never could. Kudos!

    October 13, 2013
  2. Adam #

    Thank you! Clearly well-researched and well written.

    October 13, 2013
  3. So very well explained, thank you!! My husband is one of those furloughed, seasonal, “non essential” Rangers who would LOVE to be at work right now. Park Rangers truly love their profession and this misdirected anger towards the NPS Rangers has me dumbfounded and angry. You have inspired me to write my own blog post, thank you :-)

    October 13, 2013
    • I’d love to read it when you’re done. Let me know where you post it.

      October 13, 2013
  4. SB #

    Great article. As an excepted NPS employee, I understand it all. Unfortunately, it will probably be only park service that read it. I have to say though, luckily for me as I work and live in a very small park, that the majority of people I’ve made contact with are very understanding and supportive. They understand I’m working for free, it is not my fault, and they hope it ends soon. Of the person who left me a love letter of FU, well that person should use their penmanship to write the congressperson. And that person is also a small majority, the 1 percenters, that are always out there. I’ve had gate jumpers, but they have been mislead recently by the opening of several parks in the area by state funds. However, even those people have been nice and didn’t argue with me when asking them to leave.

    October 13, 2013
    • Thanks for pointing out that the naysayers do seem to be in the minority. I worked the visitor center front desk on the morning of Sept. 30, and while lots of people had questions about how the shutdown might affect their travel plans, everyone I spoke with was genuinely concerned. Many wished us luck. I appreciated their kindness then, and still do.

      October 13, 2013
    • Alison #

      Not the only park service person to read it, not at all. I am very grateful for the kind words stated here, since day after day sitting at home, furloughed, I hear about the horrible things said to and faced by the essential staff at both my site and through the country. It is good to hear someone break through that and be understanding.

      October 14, 2013
  5. As preached in the beginning scene of Boondock Saints: “Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.”

    October 13, 2013
    • I feel like the most appropriate possible response to that is, Amen.

      October 13, 2013
  6. Ms. Bell, your article is terrific and articulates the frustrations that are being felt very compassionately while hopefully serving as a corrective to any misinformation about what’s going on out there in the parklands. for what it’s worth, i want you to know that it’s not just Park Service people who are reading this. you folks do a job that is admirable and remarkable even when you are being funded, and right now, i can’t imagine how much harder it is. as someone who really loves the NPS parks, i just want to thank you and all of your fellow NPS personnel for being there to act as stewards for some of our most important national resources.

    October 13, 2013
    • Thank you for reading, and for responding. It was perhaps inevitable that the national parks were going to become a poster child, one of the most visible symbols of the government shutdown. I think one positive outcome of this is that perhaps the public is realizing that parks aren’t something we can take for granted: they require active support in order to carry on.

      October 13, 2013
  7. Thanks for your post! Reading yours and others’ words help me feel less alone. I have been doing my best to keep my spirits up with writing and songwriting, but it is difficult looking out my apartment window at the empty visitor parking lot across the street.

    October 13, 2013
    • For me too. It’s strange going past a visitor center with no cars parked there, and no flag flying. The empty campground is a little eerie. The barricades just serve as a reminder of how sad this situation is.

      It has been fascinating to watch commentary and discussion unfold on social media (and in the regular media). One good thing to come out of this is that I feel a strong connection with the Park Service family. There are so many great people all experiencing this turbulence along with us. I of course wish things were different, but as you say, knowing we are not alone does help.

      October 13, 2013
      • I agree on all accounts! I have been writing on my blog http://www.rangerm.wordpress.com every day about the shutdown and even composed a shutdown tune. Creative expression helps me tremendously to make something beautiful out of something negative.

        October 15, 2013
  8. I was out in Maryland for work this past week and when I first planned the trip I had left some extra time Friday afternoon to see the annex of the Air and Space Museum that is our by Dulles. Well obviously THAT didn’t happen. So instead I figured I would use the time to take a longer route out to Dulles and stop by and see some pretty things. I got to Point Of Rocks and drove down to the C&O Canal and it was closed, with the gate down and a sign that said “Closed Due To Emergency Conditions”. I had totally forgotten the whole C&O Canal is a national park. I could have just walked around the gate, there was no one there, but it seemed inappropriate. So I took a photo of the sign and found a different way down to the river bank on the Virginia side. That turned out to be fortuitous since I found a boat ramp with some girl scouts who needed to borrow a cell phone to call the bus driver who was supposed to pick them up after they had been kayaking in the rain all day. Turns out the bus was on its way anyway, so I didn’t exactly save them, but it made them feel better to know rescue was imminent :)

    October 13, 2013
    • I’m glad you brought this up, Christa. Urban areas are an interesting case. There are a lot of national park lands integrated into the fabric of urban areas, including DC, New York, San Francisco, and Boston. Certainly when I lived in SF, I didn’t give much thought to who took care of Lands’ End or Crissy Field, beyond participating in the occasional volunteer cleanup project.

      The national park system is far larger and far more a part of our lives than most people realize.

      October 13, 2013
  9. I had no idea that people were having the ignorance and gall to blame the parks for their closure! Rangers are fantastic people, and shame on anyone who dumps on them in these hard times.

    October 13, 2013
    • Well, as SB points out, I think the majority of people are both kind and understanding. The challenge, as with so many things, is that often people with the least knowledge are the most vocal.

      October 13, 2013
  10. From a park ranger I have to say, thank you, thank you thank you for writing this. I have read comments like some of the ones you have mentioned here and had some pretty demeaning things said to me in the past few weeks. It’s so discouraging, especially when I want to work and keep our park open. Even more discouraging as my husband and I worry about how we will pay bills and keep our family fed. This is a much needed article.

    October 13, 2013
    • And thank you for receiving this so warmly. It means a lot.

      I had to step away from the interwebs for a little while last week. I was surprised how shaken I was by some of the things that were being said. I knew it wasn’t about me, but I nevertheless felt personally attacked by some of it. I guess that’s hard to avoid when you’ve devoted your life to a cause you truly believe in.

      October 13, 2013
      • Carrie #

        As a government research scientist who has dedicated my career to finding ways to prevent diseases and disability, I understand your feelings perfectly. I’ve heard so much nastiness about government employees and our cushy jobs. I devoted my life to this work because I believe in it and I care. The scientists I work with are the most dedicated, hard-working people I’ve ever met– one colleague even has a sleeping bag in a corner of her office, because from time to time she ends up sleeping under her desk when her work is too urgent to go home. Working so hard for the benefit of others, only to be decried as a leach on the system or a ‘thug’ is very, very demoralizing.

        October 14, 2013
  11. Reblogged this on Controlled Chaos, Christian Courage and commented:
    Please read this. If you read nothing else today at least read this.

    October 13, 2013
  12. It’s always the front line people who get the blame and my experience says with the parks open or closed, there will be those who will be doing stupid thing and destroying the resources. Caught a kid at Mesa Verde carving his name on Spruce Tree House. Two Rangers controlling 150 plus people. Always short handed, under re-reinforced, and under funded. What’s new. Good work!

    October 13, 2013
  13. Elaina Graham #

    Cathy: on behalf of your US Forest Service family relatives, thank you.

    October 13, 2013
  14. Karen #

    It’s my understanding the House did pass a bill to reinstate payment of all NPS funding and Harry Reid refuses to bring it up for a vote and President Obama refuses to sign it. I also understand that the Park Service Rangers were told to inflict as much pain as possible on the public. Is this true? Why is this President holding America hostage and warning he will break the law and not pay our debts?

    It certainly seems like you could post a sign that says “Park Closed- Visit at Your Own Risk. No Rescue Teams Available” and “Be Responsible and Pick up your Own Trash”. Most people are adults and can be responsible for themselves.

    October 14, 2013
    • Ben #

      Unfortunately, just because there are signs posted that people should or should not act in a certain way, people will still find a way to ignore them. While I understand the frustration for not being able to visit something that was created “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people…” I’d rather the resource be protected to the highest degree than be put at risk with no ability to enforce its safety and longevity.

      Just because a person is allowed to police him or herself, it does not mean that he or she will actually do so.

      Is it frustrating? Absolutely. Instead of seeing tangible scars on “America’s Best Idea,” I would prefer future generations to see these national jewels in as pristine a condition of possible.

      October 14, 2013
    • Mo #

      I agree with Ben. People disregard anyone but themselves and leave trash behind wherever they wander – I see it all the time on public land. As a volunteer EMS provider in a rural area that is quickly seeing a population boom. We encounter (esp. fire) the thought that if you build way up in the hills rescue personnel should be able to save you and your house and do it with a response time of 10 minutes or less. And how can you say open up one area of the government that is not essential to safety and health and there only for the purpose of enjoyment, but not allow other government departments to open up? Those folks are also out of work. Their work may not be seen by most, but it is still important. This strategy is hostage taking and should not be allowed to happen. FYI, I am a non-essential government worker whose work is important to farmers and ranchers in the long run.

      October 14, 2013
    • Alison #

      Park folks were not told to ‘inflict as much pain as possible’. It would be inherently against the mission of the service and park service training and method.

      October 14, 2013
    • The house has passed a lot of bills to fund tiny parts of the government in an attempt to make themselves look less bad. Basically any part that gets too much publicity for being closed gets one of these little funding bills. But that’s like trying to fix a broken dam with sandbags. They need to pass something that will fund the WHOLE of government and get everyone back to work, not this piecemeal approach.

      October 14, 2013
    • Erin #

      What are the rest of us–chopped liver? I work for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and we’re all on furlough, too. I know a few people with the FDA who are also out. Hate on the Park Service (I’ve worked there, too), but the fact of the matter is that all government agencies provide services that will be missed if we go for long without them. I happen to think the job I do has value, and I’d much prefer to be able to go and do it.

      The trouble with volunteers staffing parks is that they do not have the same sort of in-depth knowledge as those who have been hired to do the job, not do they have to follow the chain of command in the same way.

      I would also remind everyone that the president does not control the purse. That is Congress’ job.

      October 15, 2013
  15. Brian #

    Good article, although the reference to 36 CFR 1.5 as justification to close the parks in these circumstances remains highly questionable. The regulation–written by the agency itself not Congress–clearly states that closures of this magnitude may not take place without notice and comment in the Federal Register, except for emergencies. Whether a furlough is the type of emergency allowing complete closure of the parks has never been adjudicated by a court. Certainly there are good arguments to do so, but it’s not an open and shut case simply because the agency wrote itself a rule that seems to allow it to close all the national parks on a moments notice.

    October 14, 2013
    • Jana #

      In addition to 36 CFR 1.5 (which is not written by the National Park Service, but by Congress) 31 USC 1342 – a section of the Anti-deficiency Act prohibits the executive branch of government, which the Department of the Interior and National Park Service are a part of, from employing personal services exceeding that authorized by law except for emergencies. Because of this law, government employees cannot work under a shutdown. As for the National Park Service, more goes into keeping a site open than just opening gates and letting people enjoy their national parks. All of the maintenance, grounds, planning administration and such, which people usually don’t see, still need to be funded. However, if the Legislative branch of government doesn’t provide funding, the government can’t operate under law…that law being 31 USC 1342.

      October 14, 2013
  16. Bruce Jensen #

    Wow – what a beautifully crafted and reasoned discussion, cathybell. Right on the nose.

    October 14, 2013
  17. As someone in the UK watching through media can I just say what a brilliantly informed piece of writing? And it must worry park rangers alot on many levels : lack of understanding; worry for income; loss of a life long passion to work not just a job; worry about people crossing the lines and getting into trouble; how the parks will need more management if this drags on to keep them in a state the public can enjoy; so much. I hope it resolves itself and that nobody on the frontline receives abuse on behalf of governmental decisions

    October 14, 2013
  18. Sheldon #

    Thanks for your article Cathy. The only thing I would add is that the possibility of back pay has to be explicitly approved by Congress. It is not a given. I work at Mesa Verde NP as an archaeologist, and I can tell you even if we get back pay, that we would rather be working. We are paid mostly on project funds and we want to complete those projects.

    October 14, 2013
  19. Thank you for writing this. I’ll be sharing with all my family and friends!

    October 14, 2013
  20. I too had absolutely NO idea that people were ignorantly blaming those working so hard (and lovingly) within the parks. Thanks for this much needed and informative post. It really needs to be distributed within a news source!

    October 14, 2013
  21. MDT #

    Excellent article. If only those jumping the gates would read it and understand.
    I am shocked at what I’m hearing first hand from the field – those still working – at the range of support to hatred and blatant disregard and disrespect for the natural and cultural resources we preserve and protect. Yes, let’s not forget the cultural resources – all parks have both natural and cultural in some form.

    The day before this shut down there was a message on a metal detecting website declaring open season on the parks for metal detecting. During the last shutdown in 1995/96, Vicksburg NB was hit hard by the relic hunters and incurred unexpected expense so that the archaeologists could document the damage.

    No one truly understands the “price” of the Government shut down.

    October 14, 2013
  22. Ydreg #

    We love the Nat. Parks and Monuments. We have been VIPs (Volunteers in the Park) for 5 years. Many Volunteers would gladly help out, but are denied the opportunity. The slogan “WE HAVE TO MAKE IT AS PAINFUL AS POSSIBLE” says it all. Put the blame where it belongs. The Park Rangers are not at fault and they will eventually be paid, they always have been, unless our chief wants to hurt them even more,than not letting them do the job they love.

    October 14, 2013
  23. Carrie #

    This is a wonderfully written explanation. Thank you. I am a research scientist currently on furlough, and it has been exceedingly stressful. I have seen so much misunderstanding and vitriol. One point you didn’t mention, though– for furloughed workers to report to work and carry on their normal job duties would be unlawful, as it would be a violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act (which is NOT a new piece of regulation) and those workers could be subject to fines and other legal penalties. We are not allowed to work, even if we want to.

    October 14, 2013
  24. Heather #

    Well said!

    October 14, 2013
  25. Tammi Corchero NPS Ranger #

    Very eloquently and professionally stated…thank you!

    October 14, 2013
  26. Lilly Lee #

    This article is so biased, I can’t get past the 7th paragraph, in which you accuse justifiably indignant Americans of throwing a temper tantrum. Sounds like indignant Americans aren’t the only ones throwing a tantrum.

    October 14, 2013
  27. Don Norman #

    Cathy, I do understand your side of the issue and I don’t believe in taking things out on those just doing their jobs but on the same note you need to understand the public and understand the stakes in this shutdown and what it is really about, your boss thinks he’s my boss so this is about control. If the Government has the resources to stand guard for the purpose of fining or arresting people for the simple act of traveling through and enjoying “public lands” the argument for closing them becomes a bit disingenuous to many, especially when pylons are set up on public highways on the outskirts of parks for the blatant sole purpose of obstructing a chance for the public to view their land. The frustration comes from the fact that these lands and monuments are owned by The United States of America or in short “the American people”. I don’t think our founders envisioned Police intrusion into our lives at this level. The Government shutdown is all about this very issue. Government is becoming too controlling. So when “the people” protest, the Government just doubles down by initiating even more control. This issue is about Government Control and nothing else so don’t act so surprised when you find yourself caught in that crossfire when standing at that closed gate with your side arm and the power to arrest. You are (to many freedom loving patriots) a representative of that tyranny and that will only change when the Government stops intruding on liberty and stops perpetuating Statism. Many of us don’t believe Government knows better. With all due respect, I can tour the Park and National forest without the help of government. I’ve lived in the area of Glacier and Yellowstone and traveled the wilderness without it thus far and I’ve always done my part to be a good steward just as the other 99.9%. The people don’t need someone to hold their hand if they want to take a picture or go on a hike so enough with the fiction that Government is here to save the day. It’s just not a fact.

    October 14, 2013
  28. Tom North #

    Cathy,

    I enjoyed reading your insightful and articulate rendering of an oft untold side of this debacle. You did, however, neglect the abuses to and by the park service. Activities such as the prohibition of photography, barricading privately owned restaurants along the Blue Ridge Parkway and other activities imagined by a petulant executive and designed just to enhance the discomfort of the public. Or, perhaps the eviction of residents around Lake Mead in NV simply because their homes were on leased government land. I, for one, would appreciate any effort you might care to expend on some of those less honorable exercises of authority.

    Have you considered what might happen if volunteers were allowed to run some of the closed venues? America after all is the country of volunteerism. What if some good citizens just pitched in and started picking up litter and straightening up the now unmanaged parks? Might it wind up like the guy who tried to mow the unkempt grass at the Lincoln Memorial who found himself run off by the park police? In addition to the legendary devotion of most NPS folks, we’ve all experience the occasional arrogance as well.

    Admittedly, you’re pawns in a foolish game being played by a foolish president and we all lose. The money’s there it’s just withheld from the most hurtful places. Let’s try to keep some semblance of common sense and balance as we endure this thing.

    OBTW, I wholeheartedly echo Don Norman’s comments.

    Tom North
    Also on furlough

    October 15, 2013
  29. Cathy,

    RIGHT ON THE MARK, WE WANT TO WORK!

    Thank you for the expressions you have stated as it relates to so many of our fellow employees during this time of crisis. Yes I am calling it a crisis due to the fact of how this has impacted my family. This shutdown has in fact made my family shut down because of insufficient savings. I am only thankful for my family support, park support, and the behind the scene Park Ranger support on social media for getting us by. I can only brace for when I will not get paid in the next few weeks. My better half is not taking it as well as I am.

    October 15, 2013
  30. Reblogged this on Wildlife by Jo and commented:
    Very well written blog on the impacts of the US government shutdown on the national park staff. Not good.

    October 15, 2013
  31. Thanks for your perspective. While I appreciate your views and agree with you on many positions, I disagree with the temper tantrum rant. Why? I am a volunteer with Honor Flight, and have been assisting WWII veterans see their memorial for years. What saddens me is that “special dispensation” was not granted to allow these veterans to go to their memorial. Regardless of what is incorporated in the Federal Register, regardless of what either side of the political aisle is saying, keeping these elderly war heroes out of an area they have traveled significant distances to visit, is a national disgrace. And the fight isn’t with park rangers or anyone with the NPS. It’s with the executive branch. Like or hate the president, he and his cabinet should be ashamed of their behavior in this regard. And you can’t tell me President Obama can’t sign an executive order to allow NPS staffing, so these patriots, their families and the volunteers can access to the national monuments. Further, I don’t expect the NPS staff’s salaries to be in the billions, so why everyday Americans are denied access to their parks – while still paying taxes, thankyouverymuch – and the NPS employees are considered non-essential staff, is craziness. Teddy Roosevelt is surely spinning in his grave. (as an aside, I just checked to see where he’s buried, and even the website is down. REALLY? How can it be down? I can’t imagine it changes all that much to require a webmaster’s constant care. Good gravy…)

    Anyone who plans these trips know it takes months to pull off an Honor Flight trip. Add to the mix the fact that the guests of honor are extremely old and frail, and then to tell them that after all the excitement, they aren’t able to visit? I call BS.

    October 15, 2013
  32. Hope you don’t mind me posting it here, but I linked to this post of yours in my most recent blog. Thanks for the inspiration and for standing up for Rangers :-)

    http://rvrangerfamily.wordpress.com/

    October 15, 2013
  33. BettyB #

    I found your post while looking for alternate hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains area. Thank you for your insights.

    October 15, 2013
  34. Mike brodeur #

    We the people own these parks, we the people pay the taxes and pay for permits that pay your salaries. I think all park employees should have banded together and come down with “blue” flu. Barry soetoro is responsible for the closings; he wanted to inflict as much pain on the public as possible so as to get the public to blame the house. He could have prevented this closing of the parks and memorials by executive order but chose not to.

    October 15, 2013
  35. Jane #

    Thanks Cathy for your insight. But let’s not forget all the other Department of the Interior public lands that are affected by this mess. National Wildlife Refuges are also closed and important habitat and species management is being curtailed. Scientific data collection and research essential to protection of our natural resources has been put on hold. While most American’s are focusing on National Parks and Monuments, they forget to consider the young man who waited years to get his special hunting tag only to be told the Refuge is closed, Let’s STOP THE MADNESS and put not only the Park Rangers but the biologists, hydrologists, botanists, geologists, ecologists, conservationists and all the other ists, back to work.

    October 16, 2013
  36. Bob W #

    One more time… I just posted this for friends on my Facebook. From a 750 hour a year volunteer. You’re the best.

    Thank you below for a creative and clear post from the other side of the “locked gates” that many have criticized the last two weeks. Speaking off the cuff for many of my volunteer friends in service who spend a great many of our weekends in our country’s wildernesses, we appreciate the chance to get “back to work” and retake stewardship of the varied lands that we all love. And again share our experiences with all who venture there. Cathy Bell expresses some needed thoughts on the closure that we need to be reminded of in the future. Thanks
    http://cathybell.org/2013/10/12/the-view-from-behind-the-locked-gate-the-government-shutdown-and-the-national-parks/

    October 17, 2013
  37. Angela #

    Cathy, I felt compelled to respond with a heartfelt ‘thank you.’ It’s a privilege to be able to visit these sacred places that are our National Parks. On each visit, I am awed by the story behind each park, and humbled and changed as I reflect on my place in the grand scheme of how nature works. On each visit, it is connecting with rangers that help me understand and appreciate what great efforts are needed to protect and preserve the most fragile ecosystems. I appreciate how sincerely and passionately rangers have shared their knowledge with me, and these experiences stay with me even after I have returned home.

    As a public school teacher in Philadelphia, I understand the feeling of being misunderstood by the public. During the 16-day shutdown, it was painful to read all the hurtful comments directed at park staff and especially at rangers, and I worried about the effect on morale this would have on a group of people I truly respect and care about. You deserve support from the public for the important work that you do. I’m glad that you’re all back at work and grateful that our National Parks are under the stewardship of our dedicated and tremendously capable rangers.

    October 19, 2013
  38. audreydclark #

    Interesting environmentalist take on the shutdown:
    http://www.sagemagazine.org/shutdown-ignored/

    January 7, 2014

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Don’t hate on Park Rangers | RV Ranger Family
  2. Shutdown Showdown and the Battle over National Parks, Week Two | Landscape Redux
  3. Bless the Rangers | Student of the American Civil War
  4. Storming the Barricades
  5. Shutdown | Eat.Play.Nature.
  6. National Parks Reopen, but Harmful Funding Cuts Continue! | Sunset Daily
  7. 2013: a (crowdsourced) digest | Interactivate

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