A government shutdown and the National Parks

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

With a government shutdown looking more likely as the House and Senate continue a budget battle ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline, the effects on the National Parks system will be immediate. All 401 parks, monuments, historic houses and battlefields will close and parks users will be told to leave in a two-step process.

Day users

Day visits will end on Tuesday. The park entrances will be closed and day visitors will need to leave. Access roads will also be closed. Park offices and visitor centers will also no longer be open.

While park roads will be closed, any road that bisects a park and is used as a thruway for the surrounding communities will remain open.

Overnight users

Those using overnight facilities – park campgrounds, cabins and other accommodations ­– will be asked to leave within two days and will need to make other arrangements. Refunds will be up to the concessionaires that run the facilities, according to the NPS.

Backcountry visitors

Okay, here things seem nebulous. I haven’t found anything on the Web about those already in the backcountry.

I called the backcountry office at Rocky Mountain National Park to see if it had any information. The individuals I spoke to said that during a shutdown no new permits will be issued and access to the park will be closed. If you have a backcountry permit and are already on the trip, you will be able to continue.

One answer I could not find was if your course traversed from one park into another. If the junction were in the backcountry, I would guess you would be okay; if the trail went through a main part of a park facility or required a check-in? Then you might be in trouble…

What about in the case of an emergency in the backcountry during the shutdown? The parks will keep skeletal staffs for emergencies, but any support would likely be more scattershot.

If anyone has any more details about backcountry use during a shutdown, please let me know.

Park employees

Park employees deemed essential will remain on the job. According to the NPS’s contingency plans,  “Staffing will be held to the very minimum to perform essential functions. This will ordinarily be only law enforcement personnel, at a staffing level that allows for reactive emergency response commensurate with levels of park operations under the shutdown. However, in certain instances maintenance and IT personnel may be required for systems that normally require 24 hour monitoring or periodic maintenance, without which the system would shut down. Emergency responders, including Fire Management, EMS, and Law Enforcement personnel, not required for essential activities will be placed on furlough but may be called back to duty if an emergency situation arises.”

According to the contingency plans, a shutdown would put 87 percent of Park Service employees – more that 21,000 people – will be furloughed.

Economic effects

So how much is this going to cost the parks, the employees and the surrounding communities? According to the National Parks Conservation Association, “The last government shutdown in 1995-1996 cost local businesses $14 million per day. Our analysis indicates the actual impact on businesses now could be closer to $30 million per day.”


Jimmy Chin in Grand Teton National Park

The film collaboration between Camp 4 Collective and the National Park Foundation continues, and part three finds climber/skier/filmmaker Jimmy Chin in Grand Teton National Park. In the four-minute video, Chin shares highlights of his trips to the park, including his first trip there when he was 18.

For more on the National Park Foundation project, visit nationalparks.org/explore.

Part one of the series featured Alex Honnond in Yosemite National Park. Part two highlighted Conrad Anker in Denali National Park.

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Conrad Anker in Denali

Part two of a film collaboration between Camp 4 Collective and the National Park Foundation finds Conrad Anker in Denali National Park climbing the highest mountain in North America. In the four-minute video, Anker shares highlights of expeditions to Alaska and family camping trips to other national parks.

For more on the National Park Foundation project, visit nationalparks.org/explore.

Part one of the series featured Alex Honnond in Yosemite National Park.

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Alex Honnold in Yosemite

Spend four minutes with Alex Honnold as he climbs and extols the backcountry options of Yosemite National Park. The film, a collaboration between Camp 4 Collective and the National Park Foundation, is the first of four videos that will highlight top athletes and their relationships with the National Park Service.

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Two ways to see the outdoors

The New York Times and Sotheby’s, via a link on the Times website, offer up two ways to get outdoors:

1. Buy the $3,575,000 Snowmass, Colo., Lazy O Ranch:

(via sothebysrealty.com)

(via sothebysrealty.com)

Enjoy panoramic views from this dramatic, fully remodeled home on 3.56 acres overlooking the majestic 1,400 acres of Lazy O Ranch! Features include 6 bedrooms, 6 full baths, 2 half baths, 9307 square feet, spacious floor plan, top of the line finishes, striking log accents, ample master suite, wine room, theater, recreation room, air conditioning, two car garage, mature landscaping, pond/water feature and privacy. The ranch amenities include common horse pastures, barn, tennis courts, fishing ponds, hiking/riding trails and a manager on site 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Just 16 miles to the center of Aspen, and 6 miles to the quaint town of Basalt with specialty shops, restaurants, and renowned Gold Medal fishing in the Frying Pan River. Seller will consider a trade for a U.S. commercial income property of equal or greater value. Flexible and Creative Owner Financing Available. Originally $7,450,000 Now $3,575,000

(Hey, it’s reduced!)

2. Head out into our national parks and forests.

From Times columnist Nicholas Kristof:

During an August vacation with my family, I enjoyed lodgings so spectacular that not even Bill Gates or Warren Buffett could ever buy or rent them.

The scenery was some of America’s finest: snowcapped mountains, alpine lakes, babbling brooks. The cost? It was free.

We were enjoying some of America’s public lands, backpacking through our national patrimony. No billionaire can acquire these lands because they remain — even in a nation where economic disparities have soared — a rare democratic space. The only one who could pull rank on you at a camping spot is a grizzly bear.

One of the greatest things about heading into the outdoors is that it doesn’t cost a lot of money. Don’t get me wrong, you can spend a fortune outfitting yourself with all the latest gear and creature comforts, but you don’t need to do so in order to have a good time. Also, once you do have the gear your need — bargain basement or high end — the cost-per-day of being outdoors is not very high. Campgrounds are cheap. The miles you hike vs. the cost of food produces a nice return. Even a plane ticket, if planned out in advance, isn’t horrible when stacked up against vistas, rocks and waves. A bundle of wood may cost $5, but you get a couple of hours of enjoyment out of it while sitting around a fire. And, inexpensive beer and wine taste pretty good under the stars.

Think I’ll stick with the second option…

A timelapse of the Rim Fire at Yosemite National Park

The National Park Service has released an amazing timelapse of the Rim Fire located in and around Yosemite National Park.

From the YouTube posting:

Time-lapse photography shows various perspectives of the 2013 Rim Fire, as viewed from Yosemite National Park. The first part of this video is from the Crane Flat Helibase. The fire is currently burning in wilderness and is not immediately threatening visitors or employees. The second half of the video is from Glacier Point, showing Yosemite Valley, and how little the smoke from the fire has impacted the Valley.

A little about the Rim Fire from Time Magazine:

Two weeks after the Rim Fire ignited, firefighters have the blaze about 30 percent contained. Backfires, small fires lit by crews to consume fuel and direct the main fire away from population centers, have succeeded in slowing the inferno, and cooler temperatures and higher humidity have fire officials optimistic, but they predict it will take two more weeks before the fire is fully contained.

And, according to the Associated Press, fire commanders are using a Predator drone to help keep track of the fire.

“The drone is providing data directly back to the incident commander, allowing him to make quick decisions about which resources to deploy and where,” [California fire spokesman Daniel] Berlant said.

Previously, officials relied on helicopters that needed to refuel every two hours.

While unmanned aircraft have mapped past fires, use of the Predator will be the longest sustained mission by a drone in California to broadcast information to firefighters in real time.

The plane, the size of a small Cessna, will remain over the burn zone for up to 22 hours at a time, allowing fire commanders to monitor fire activity, determine the fire’s direction of movement, the extent of containment and confirm new fires ignited by lightning or flying embers.

The drone is being flown by the 163rd Wing of the California National Guard at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside and is operating from Victorville Airport, both in Southern California. It generally flew over unpopulated areas on its 300-mile flight to the Rim Fire. Outside the fire area, it will be escorted by a manned aircraft.

Find current official information on the fire visit here.

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