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Government Shutdown and the NPS

Mt. Rainier (14,411′), will be closed as will all other National Parks should a government shutdown go into effect. [Photo]

A government shutdown at midnight tonight could put a damper on many climbers’ travel plans and disrupt business for the guiding industry. If a decision can’t be reached by midnight, “non-essential” government employees and programs will be suspended until an agreement is reached. Included in this non-essential category are the 394 park system units.

According to the National Park Service, in the event that funding runs out at midnight park visitors will be asked to leave starting Saturday morning. At this time of year, the parks receive approximately 800,000 visitors a day (a significantly larger number than during the winter shutdown of 1995), with 15 percent of these users traveling to the United States from abroad. There will be an expected revenue loss of 32 million dollars, per day that the government is shutdown for the NPS. The NPS website, the most popular of the government sites, will be shut down. All major events, including the 400 scheduled within the parks for next week, will be canceled. Roads into some parks will be gated or barricaded. Rangers on Denali will stay on the mountain as will climbers currently attempting Denali, but the McKinley Park HQ was unsure if anyone would be allowed to fly into the park during a shutdown. On Rainier, a shutdown will mean no access to the park at all, though it seems no climbing permits were issued for the coming weekend. Grand Teton and Yosemite National Parks reported plans similar to those on Rainier.

Despite the fact that National Parks contribute $4 to our national economy for every $1 invested, funding the NPS, and their climbing-related programs have been a struggle, as seen by the recent special usage fee hikes. (Possible Denali Foraker Fee Increase, Thoughts on the Denali Fee Hike and Forty-Three Dollars for Rainier) This shutdown poses major concerns to the climbing community.

Guiding services are somewhat in the dark, as neither they nor the NPS are certain as to how backcountry permits will be handled. Park supervisors have little to no control over the situation. Of the approximately 20,000 national parks employees, 3,000 will be kept on staff. NPS explains that any park service employees living in park housing will be allowed to stay, and that some emergency services will continue to run for them. However, staff will be brought to the minimum in these areas as well. Aid will be limited for any climbers or hikers on extended backcountry trips in the event of an emergency.

Sources: David Barna NPS, Jason Martin AAI,