Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

In October 2013, barriers blocked entry to Sequoia National Park when a budge impasse caused the federal government to cease operations due to lack of funding.

Government shutdown looms

National parks will cease visitor services if spending not approved by December 21
By: 
Sarah Elliott

 

With cameras rolling, President Donald Trump had a contentious meeting Tuesday with the top two Democrats in Congress as he sought a deal over his proposal to build a wall at the Mexico border and threatening a government shutdown if his demand wasn’t honored. Trump,
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have until Friday, Dec. 21, to resolve their differences or a partial government closure will occur. 
 
Currently, the Democrats are willing to offer funding for border "fencing," rather than a wall, and say a failure to agree would lead to what Schumer and Pelosi have already labeled a “Trump shutdown.”
 
On Tuesday, the president tweeted at 7:30 a.m. (EST): "People do not yet realize how much of the Wall, including really effective renovation, has already been built. If the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country, the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall. They know how important it is!"
 
This political posturing on both sides could once again make a direct hit on the Three Rivers economy, which depends on tourism, if a compromise isn't reached to fund federal programs.
 
If the federal government initiates a shutdown, it will affect the National Park Service and its local operations. This means that the period leading up to the Christmas and New Year holidays, typically a holly, jolly time for visitation in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, could be
instead more like an experience from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
 
Although many programs are exempt, Three Rivers is likely to feel the impact of a shutdown. National parks were closed to the public for 16 days in October 2013. 
 
That year, millions of visitors to more than 400 parks, national monuments, and other sites were turned away. The National Park Service estimated that the shutdown led to over half a billion dollars in lost visitor spending nationwide.
 
In December 2017, the National Park Service completed a contingency plan that will take effect in the absence of appropriations. This plan no longer includes turning visitors away at park entrances.
 
In the event of a government shutdown, there will be personnel retained to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, of course, and the parks should remain accessible — roads, trails, and outdoor visitor attractions. However,  visitors will
be notified that the NPS will cease visitor services, including restrooms, trash collection, facilities and roads maintenance (including plowing), campground reservation services, and information centers.
 
Here’s why this is happening: The fiscal year began September 30, and Congress has passed five of 12 appropriations bills that set spending levels. Lawmakers had until December 7 to pass legislation to fund other federal programs to avoid a partial shutdown of the federal government. 
 
One day before the deadline, President Trump signed a continuing resolution to keep the government running for two more weeks, through December 21, due to the death of George H.W. Bush and his memorial service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., that week. 
 
What to watch for this week: Spending bills need to be passed this week or a continuing resolution approved to avoid a Christmas shutdown of the national parks. Agencies that will close due to lack of funding include the Department of the Interior, as well as the Departments of
Homeland Security, Agriculture (U.S. Forest Service), Commerce, Justice, State, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development.

 

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