Prairie, © Jim Brandenburg / National Geographic Stock

A Shutdown Shame

by Haley McKey

The government shutdown is wreaking havoc on federal programs across the nation.  The agencies, people and programs that work hard to conserve our land and wildlife are no exception.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management Forest Service and more have all taken a hit.  Here’s a quick run through of services affected by the shutdown:

Department of the Interior (overall)

A whopping 81 percent of all Interior employees are furloughed. National parks and refuges are closed, education programs are canceled and vital work to manage and protect our natural resources has been delayed. The longer this shutdown continues, the harder it will be for Interior programs to reach their goals when it finally ends.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Bison in Yellowstone

Progress for recovering iconic species like bison has come to a screeching halt. ©Diana LeVasseur

All national wildlife refuges are closed and the development of policies for endangered species, strategy for fighting the illegal wildlife trade and other conservation planning has ground to a halt. FWS must delay addressing the needs of vulnerable species and habitats until the shutdown ends– but for many of our endangered species, every second counts. There’s bad news for communities, too: FWS personnel who would normally be available to help respond to disaster situations outside of wildlife refuges won’t be available during the shutdown.

FWS will, however, continue to maintain and care for fish at National Fish Hatcheries and animals at captive breeding facilities. Law enforcement officers, FWS firefighters and wildlife inspectors will all remain on the job.

National Park Service

The National Park Service has furloughed a whopping 21,000 employees and closed all of our national parks, including icons like Yellowstone, Shenandoah, Everglades and Grand Canyon National Park.  All educations programs and special events have been canceled and permits for holding events rescinded. People camping or staying in hotels on national park property were given 48 hours to vacate the premises. A limited number of NPS law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency services personnel will continue to work– but at nowhere near the capacity needed to effectively manage our parks and protect wildlife.

Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management, which is responsible for 253 million acres of land, has furloughed 10,200 of its 10, 800 employees.  All recreation areas, including campgrounds, visitor centers and concessions are closed and businesses run by outside outfitters with BLM permits are not be able to operate on closed BLM lands.  Restoration of rangelands, monitoring of grazing allotments, and work on resource management plans have also been halted.

Forest Service


We simply can’t care for our nation’s forests effectively with no rangers to manage them.

The Forest Service (which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture) will operate at 41% of its original capacity. The agency will suspend the sale of all types of permits, including recreation, firewood and mineral materials. All national forest recreation sites, offices and visitor centers are closed, and the 41 percent of employees still on the job will be mainly focused on law enforcement and fire control. But at such a reduced capacity, fires and other environmental damage could be more difficult to contain, putting wildlife and habitat at risk.

We can’t yet know what the full extent and impact of the shutdown would be, but it’s clear that every day it continues is a day wasted for our precious natural heritage. It’s time for Congress to step  up, do what’s right for our natural heritage and end the shutdown.

6 Responses to “A Shutdown Shame”

  1. K Schwall

    I do not have a problem with the BLM and Forest Service being closed, because at least their “war on horses” and removal of all mustangs and burros from public lands will at least slow down. Hopefully the helicopters that cruelly herd these animals are also out of commission. The BLM and Forest Service seem to “look the other way” and allow horses to be sold to “kill buyers” who ship the horses to slaughter. I am not even sure I want these people to go back to work! I see through their lies and have a hard time believing their jobs actually do positive things for animals! I These horses are protected and should be left on our public lands. The fact that my tax dollars are used to rid the west of these animals is criminal! I so wish Defenders would become involved in the fight to save another important animal!

  2. Garry Rogers

    Where vulnerable species are jeopardized and environmental crimes are permitted, the shutdown will have a negative impact. Otherwise, resting the land from visitors and from the poor management practices that have permitted a wasteland to form in the 17 western states can’t be all bad.

  3. Carrie

    As a FS employee, I have to agree with both of those comments! And sometimes vulnerable species are jeopardized and environmental crimes are committed at the hands of the FS and BLM…in some ways we’ve changed for the better, but in too many ways we’re still the same ol’ Good ol Boys club…gotta get the cut out, and drill baby drill…ugh.
    I for one am enjoying my furlough vacay!

  4. Renato

    Yes , is a fact , behind all above around “100000000% , facing vulnerability for both , our Native species & our own Environment which we need to survive . However , I strong believe this unbeatable Country and we’ll overcome “another” challenge ahead under tireless efforts as we did & do every single day/night on behalf of our Wolves & Wilderness as well ….

    RG4Wolves …

  5. Frank Gerlach

    The Bush Presidency (son) caused more damage to our environmental laws than was realized at the time and is just now being understood just how damaging it was! The fact that he couldn’t understand why someone didn’t like him shows just how clueless the man is and was. I’ll bet Cheney goes to sleep with a smile on his face thinking about it. I didn’t think the Republicans could do any worse than Bush Jr and the mess he left, but hell no I was wrong big time, here come ole Boehner or bone-ner, or the hard-on kid and shuts the whole damn government down. In the words of Bugs Bunny, ” What a Maroon!” To top it off Those rascally bastids Repub’s have another pinhead waiting in the wings just in case the first pinhead fails name of Cruz or Crude or Crud! What really ties my fanny in a knot is then, they both, Crud and the Hard On Kid, turn around and blame the Democrats for the mess they made and think the people of the USA are so stupid, they won’t know who really did it. Just to PISS ME OFF with out any chance of forgiveness they get a whole bunch of their fellow Republican cronies to swear up and down that’s the way it happened, when we all know that’s a crock of s**t. I don’t think the American Tax-payer will forgive you Mr. Ex-speaker of the House Boehner or you Mr Cruz. Or the Republican cronies that insulted the Voters by telling them they were stupid not in so many words but by saying it just the same by acting like it was the Democrats when it was the Republicans–pure and simple!!!

  6. Eduardo

    That’s a shame, but through the article there’s no mention justifying the shut down. Budget reasons? Unmeasurable results? How about some perspective from the other side??

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