Today President Trump announced a short-term deal to end the longest partial government shutdown in the country’s history. The deal, which the President said he would sign “in a short while,” would reopen the federal government for three weeks until February 15.
Trump said he’s asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to put this proposal on the floor immediately, clearing the way for impacted departments to receive funding. The announcement of the deal follows two failed votes in the Senate on Thursday, which could have reopened the government.
The departments of the Interior and Agriculture, which oversee the four major federal agencies that manage around 610 million acres of public land held by the U.S. government, are among the entities that have been impacted. During the shutdown, which began on December 22, 2018, the majority of federal public lands have remained open but with limited access and staffing. However, several open and closed parks experienced overflowing trash cans and toilets, parking and camping beyond designated areas, vandalism, and threats to wildlife and cultural resources. In addition to recreation impacts, rural communities like Ashford, Washington, near Mount Rainier National Park, felt the economic ramifications of the shutdown. The long-term effects to federal public lands remain to be seen.
“The administration’s decision to keep the government closed is not only causing damage to our nation’s public lands, but is harming gateway communities, guiding companies and locals who rely on access to public lands to make their livings,” Tania Lown-Hecht, communications director for the Outdoor Alliance, previously told the Co-op Journal.
The shutdown also affected federal workers who care for federal public lands. For example, more than 21,000 of National Park Service (NPS) employees were placed on furlough, leaving about 3,000 “essential employees” to handle NPS operations. During his announcement today, the President said he “will make sure that all employees receive their back pay very quickly or as soon as possible.”
Although the deal would provide short-term relief for federal public lands and employees, REI is advocating for a long-term solution.
“We want these budget issues to be ironed out for good in the coming weeks. It’s time to reopen the parks for all—to get back to enjoying them and to fixing them,” said Marc Berejka, director of government and community affairs at REI.
During the three-week period, discussions around border security are expected to continue.
“If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15 again or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency,” Trump said.
To reopen the government temporarily, both the Senate and the House still need to pass spending bills for the President to sign. The Senate remains in Washington, D.C., while members of the House of Representatives will need to return to D.C. to pass their version of the spending bill in the coming days.
- How the Government Shutdown is Affecting Federal Public Lands
- Visitor Dies in Yosemite National Park Amid Government Shutdown
- Administration Authorizes National Parks to Use Entrance Fees to Fund Operations During Government Shutdown
- American Alpine Club: Small Businesses That Rely On Access to National Parks and Public Lands Are Hurting
- Jerry Stritzke: Our National Parks Need Our Help
- ‘This is so hard on the small communities’: The Shutdown’s Economic Toll
- The Trust for Public Land: Crisis in our National Parks