After 16 disastrous days, the government shutdown is finally over, but only at tremendous cost to America's outdoor recreation economy. Not only did the shutdown furlough forest rangers, park police and wildlife biologists, it cancelled dream vacations for hundreds of thousands of tourists, nearly crushing the economies of gateway communities and putting countless jobs and businesses at risk.
If there's anything to be learned from the uproar created by the closure of parks and public lands, it's that Americans adore their public lands. And because of that, our wildlands are a critical part of the economy - to the tune of $646 billion annually.
Take a look at the tremendous economic losses created by shutdown.
For the entire period of the government shutdown:
Communities near national parks are estimated to have lost $76 million in tourism spending every single day of the shutdown, equaling more than 1.2 billion for the entire shutdown.
Local businesses in communities near National Wildlife Refuges lost $4.5 million in sales every day of the shutdown. That amounts to $72 million for the duration of the shutdown.
182,593 land, wildlife and energy management employees were furloughed, delaying their paychecks for 16 days
In just the first ten days of the shutdown, the parks lost hundreds of millions of visitor dollars. According to a report by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, the 12 busiest parks in the nation suffered extreme losses. The infographic below details the impacts in those first 10 days at America's most popular national parks, their communities and their states:
Infographic: The shutdown's costs to national parks and local economies
In the first ten days of the shutdown, the 12 busiest parks in the nation lost:
- 7 million visitors
- $76 million in visitor spending each day
- $450,000 in entrance fees per day
- 40,000 recreation-based jobs in or near those 12 parks were also put at risk, not including those that are in the parks themselves
"These figures are mind-boggling, and they only begin to capture the full economic shock of locking up the crown jewels of America," says Maureen Finnerty, the Coalition's chair and a former superintendent at Everglades and Olympic National Parks.
Gateway towns near parks and monuments struggled as tourism decreased and many places, like White's City, N.M., outside Carlsbad Caverns, became economic ghost towns. Many small businesses reported needing to lay-off workers and feared bankruptcy, while larger businesses like Xanterra Parks and Resorts, which manages lodges at national parks throughout the country, reported losing millions for each day of the shutdown.
Now that the government is up and running, there is still a battle ahead for our nations national parks and public lands. Even before the shutdown, Congress' mandatory sequester cuts had gutted many federally-funded environmental programs. If Congress does not commit more funding to such programs, the future of our national parks, refuges and environmental programs may be in serious jeopardy. The Wilderness Society is working with Congress to ensure our public lands are funded adequately and we'll be calling on our supporters to help in the months ahead.
- Government re-opens but will wildlands continue to be victimized by Congressional budget clashes
- Photo tribute: Gorgeous wildlands that will suffer without funding
- Infographic: How the government shutdown is impacting wildlands
- Shutdown FAQs: Answers to your questions about impacts to visitors and wildlands
Photo above: Olympic National Park, Washington, during the shutdown. By NPCA