Lions and Tigers and Shutdowns, Oh My!

As the nation looks on to see if our elected leaders can come to resolution over our next budget, I thought I might share a little story of how the government shutdown impacted the course of my life yesterday.

I am extremely fortunate not to have my job as one of the federal positions directly impacted by the partial shutdown. This was not the case a few years back when we went into a massive shutdown that I was wholly unprepared for at the time. However, yesterday while spending some long anticipated time with my family, I saw signs like this one taped up on lots of doors.

Have you ever thought about the negative impact of government shutdowns on National Parks?

See, I live in Hot Springs National Park so my vantage point is different than many others. This is a tourist season and many of our facilities (including lots of bathrooms) are closed due to this shutdown. National Parks fall underneath the U.S. Department of the Interior. This is not a frivolous agency as it contains nine bureaus and a “special projects directorate”:

• Bureau of Indian Affairs – currently provides services (directly or through contracts, grants, or compacts) to approximately 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives.

• Bureau of Land Management – administers more than 247.3 million acres (1,001,000 km2) of public lands in the United States which constitutes one-eighth of the landmass of the country.

• Bureau of Ocean Energy Management – handles offshore leasing and operations governed by a wide variety of laws, regulations, and other communications with the offshore industry. The Bureau enforces compliance with these regulations and periodically updates rules to reflect advancements in technology and new information.

• Bureau of Reclamation – oversees water resource management, specifically as it applies to the oversight and operation of the diversion, delivery, and storage projects that it has built throughout the western United States for irrigation, water supply, and attendant hydroelectric power generation.

• Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement – the lead agency in charge of improving safety and ensuring environmental protection relating to the offshore energy industry, mainly natural gas and oil, on the United States Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

• National Park Service – manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations. As of 2018, the NPS employs approximately 27,000 employees who oversee 418 units, of which 60 are designated national parks.

• Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement – entrusted with the implementation and enforcement of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA), which attached a per-ton fee to all extracted coal in order to fund an interest-accruing trust to be used for reclamation of abandoned mine lands, as well as established a set environmental standards that mines must follow while operating, and achieve when reclaiming mined land, in order to minimize environmental impact. OSMRE has about 500 employees.

• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – dedicated to the management of fish, wildlife, and natural habitats.

• U.S. Geological Survey – a scientific agency that study the landscape of the United States, its natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten it. The USGS employs approximately 8,670 people.

Now think about this… the Department of the Interior is only one of the agencies impacted directly by partial shutdown?

I don’t think anyone is a fan of shutdowns, partial or otherwise. The fact that on a regular, habitual basis our elected officials cannot pass a budget through both chambers of Congress is worrisome to me. Yes, there are important differences over how the Nation’s money should be spent; however, it is not in the national interest to send employees home. It is not in the national interest to dissuade bright, young minds away from government service and that is exactly what happens every time we start talking about shutdowns.

Looking back at my writing from roughly a year ago I noticed that I did another think piece on a different shutdown. I certainly hope these shutdown theatrics are not going to become our new normal.

We can do better.

Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Hot Springs, Arkansas. For more information on her current projects visit https://about.me/MCyoungblood.

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