Brief Government Shutdowns Impact National Parks

Feb 14, 2018

Several illegal actions took place within national parks during the three-day government shutdown in January. In Zion National Park, a pregnant elk was poached, in Gettysburg National Military Park, a family brought in a metal detector and a drone — both of which are prohibited—and in Yellowstone, private snowmobilers went past the legal boundary to get close to the geyser Old Faithful.

People watching Old Faithful erupt from geyser cone, Yellowstone National Park, 1948
Credit R. Robinson / National Park Service Photo Gallery

Aaron Weiss, media director for the Center for Western Priorities, explained why that’s dangerous.

"If you end up with machinery getting too close to the geysers, you could end up, in many of these cases, either falling through or causing permanent damage to the ground and to the whole system of geysers and water that flow underneath Yellowstone,” Weiss said.

He said the snowmobilers were egged on by commercial tour guides.

Weiss also said all of the illegal actions could have been avoided if Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke had closed the gates to national parks. That’s what happened during the 2013 shutdown.

Weiss said, hopefully, there’s no shutdown coming again anytime soon.

"But if the government does shut down again, we hope that Secretary Zinke realizes he made a very dangerous mistake last time and he reconsiders his decision to keep the doors open,” he said.

Another short government shutdown took place early last Friday for only three hours. A long-term government spending bill has yet to be reached.