Federal Government Shutdown Impacts Wyoming Sites.
Several federal sites, parks and landmarks throughout Wyoming closed or have limited services. This is due to the partial federal government shutdown, which began on December 21, 2018.
National sites are seeing limited access, services, emergency personnel and ranger-led tours. While the shutdown is closing some national sites, Yellow Stone National Park and Grand Teton National Park remain open.
Yellowstone National Park:
Yellowstone remains open, but, all government-run operations and facilities closed. Entrance stations are not staffed. Park staff are providing emergency services and law enforcement. All park regulations, including those on snow travel, are in effect as normal.
The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana is open to wheeled vehicle travel. Visitors can access all the commercial services along this route. This includes commercial services in Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower.
Visitors can also access commercial services in the interior of the park via over snow travel. Concessioners are currently providing funding for road grooming so that over snow access to the interior is possible. If conditions become unsafe at any time, roads and/or developed areas in the park may close.
For the most current information on services offered by Yellowstone National Park Lodges, visit www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com or call 307-344-7311.
Grand Teton National Park:
Entrance gates are open, but not staffed. Visitors can access the park with no visitor services available. Ranger-led snowshoe hikes are not available.
While you can still access the national parks in Wyoming, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should. I haven’t heard about how the closures are affecting parks in Wyoming. I have heard, however, that toilets are overflowing at Joshua Tree and litter is gathering in Yosemite. Visitors are venturing off roads and trails, causing serious damage to delicate ecosystems in Death Valley.
If you do go camping in a national park during the shut, bring a trash bag and your own toilet paper. Do your part to help out in the absence of employees.
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area:
All park facilities (restrooms, visitor centers, etc.) are currently closed. Visitor access to recreation areas, trails and fishing on the area’s waterway remain open.
Devils Tower National Monument:
Access is unavailable.
Fossil Butte National Monument:
Fort Laramie National Historic Site:
All fenced facilities closed.
National Elk Refuge:
Sleigh ride tours on the National Elk Refuge through Double H Bar continue as scheduled. For more information on ticket sales and services, please call the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce at 307-733-3316.
Federal employees tell visitors to Wyoming’s national sites to practice caution. They should follow all safety protocol on national lands as the shutdown has limited emergency services.
Wyoming State Parks remain open and unaffected, with abundant recreation options.
The Government Shutdown in General
President Donald Trump announced a partial government shutdown 14 days ago on December 22nd. This was after Democrats rejected his demand for 5 billion dollars in wall funding. Democrats and Republicans have reached a stalemate with disputes on border security and wall funding.
Bipartisan congressional leaders headed to the White House this morning. They planned on talking on how to end the partial government shutdown. Lawmakers are looking to break a stalemate over Trump’s demand for five billion dollars to build his proposed border wall. The two major parties stand far from a deal on border security as many federal works face missed paychecks.
Democrats passed bills Thursday evening to reopen nine federal governments. This was one of their first acts in their new House majority. Their plan does not call for the money for Trump’s wall. Eight of those departments would get funding through September 30th. The Department of Homeland Security would reopen through February 8th. Because the measures don’t include money for Trump’s border wall, he has vowed not to sign the spending packages.
House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi said, “We’re not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt about that? We’re not doing a wall. It’s an old way of thinking. It’s not cost effective.”
Trump has so far shown no willingness to cave. He said Wednesday that the shutdown would last “as long as it takes” to see his demands met.
As the shutdown drags one, political pressure on Republicans has increased. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner was the first Senate Republic to call for reopening the government, even without a border wall deal.
“I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open. The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today,” Gardner said.
Gardner wants to pass legislation with the 1.3 billion dollars Democratic leaders have proposed for border fencing. From there he believes Congress should work to get more funding. Gardner said negotiations on Trump’s border wall can continue once Congress reopens federal agencies. He added Republicans can “let Democrats explain why they no longer support border security.”
As of noon on Friday January 4th, I hadn’t heard any further updates on the federal government closure.
My thoughts on the border wall
I’m going to be blunt and state it. I am 100 percent against the border wall. I’m not going to talk about the social aspects, because I don’t have enough knowledge to talk about that. My biggest concern is the environment and the wildlife that live along the border. Animals don’t understand borders and if the government builds a wall that could affect their migration corridors.
Along the border the US has National Parks, State Parks and wildlife areas containing miles of critical ecosystems.
Additionally, nature has already built a wall along part of the border. The Rio Grande Gorge acts as a huge trench between Mexico and Texas. A large canyon wall scales both sides of the river. A physical border wall would block several animals from the Rio Grande, which is their only reliable water source. The wall would also prohibit dispersal of wildlife, likely causing genetic isolation.
Once populations are genetically isolated, they can deviate through one of two mechanisms. These are natural selection or genetic drift. Let’s touch on natural selection first. Limited resources ensure that wildlife with certain genes leave behind more offspring than others. As a result, those genes become more common in the population over time. In genetic drift, a random event can wipe out individuals non-selectively so that some genes become more common while others are eliminated.
Why is this important? For many animals to thrive, their gene pools need to be as varied as possible. Isolated from each other, they’re in trouble. Genetic isolation puts wildlife at risk of extinction or genetic problems. There can be problems with inbreeding, which can pass on undesirable genes for the animals.
Ben Masters is working to develop a documentary that further details the ecological and wildlife impacts that the wall would present. Click the picture to see the trailer on this film.
The crew traveled 1,200 miles along the U.S. and Mexico border to experience the vast landscapes. They journeyed from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico on horses, mountain bikes and canoes. They also came face-to-face with the human side of the immigration debate.
The River and the Wall is slated to be released this year. Masters and his crew traveled to Washington recently for a private screen of the film. Following the screening, Representative U.S. Representative Will Hurd(R-TX 23), Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX 16), and Senator Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) joined Director Ben Masters, Producer Hillary Pierce, and Associate Producer Jay Kleberg for a panel discussion moderated by Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason Grumet.
I’m not against border security, but I don’t think the wall is the right answer. The government needs to do something else. It’s not an easy black and white answer.
Wyoming Game and Fish
Back in Wyoming, the Game and Fish Department made some changes to licenses for 2019.
Starting this year, when people buy a fishing, small game, game bird or furbearers license, it will be valid for 12 months from the sale date. In the past, these licenses would expire on the first of the New Year. Now, if a person buys their license on July 1st, 2019, the license will expire on July 1st, 2020.
Game and Fish personnel listened to public feedback. They found a year-long license was something many people were requesting, so they could get the full use of the license.
With these new changes, Game and Fish will print the expiration dates for licenses and conservation stamps. Hunters and anglers will be able to keep track of when they need to buy again. If people renew early, the start date for the new license will begin the day after the current one expires.
Game and Fish also implemented a 2.5 percent processing fee for credit card transactions. When people buy hunting applications or licenses with credit cards, Game and Fish used to pay the processing fee. This resulted in a 1.8 million dollar expense on the department’s behalf each year.
What I’m listening to:
The Future Perfect podcast: How to save a species (if you really want to)
This episode is a couple months old, but has good information about the black footed ferret. The US Fish and Wildlife Service thought the ferrets were extinct until a Wyoming rancher rediscovered it in 1981. The host of the podcast goes through the debate about whether agency should continue with efforts to continue saving the ferrets.