National parks suffered deregulatory attacks during shutdown
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National park and forest employees returned to work Monday after a bill to reopen the government was signed by Trump on Friday, January 25th. This follows the longest government shutdown in national history.
With twenty national forests and nine national parks located in California, the impact of the shutdown on the agricultural and interior departments was felt statewide.
During the shutdown, various pieces of legislation have been in the works that will hurt national parks and forests. President Trump signed an executive order increasing logging on federal lands in hopes of decreasing the chances of wildfires. However, in the attempt to look out for one part of the environment, Executive Order 13855 opens the doors for commercial logging which is invasive and often destructive of the natural habitats and ecological systems at place within wilderness areas. The Interior Department has proposed a new rule that denies public access to documents regarding the use and care of public lands. For organizations interested in environmental issues, news outlets, and citizens, this would decrease the chances that the Interior Department would answer information requests in a timely manner, or at all. Los Padres ForestWatch’s website says the new rule decreases the amount of information requests the department will process each month and allows the department the ability to ignore requests for large amounts of information. The public hearing period lasted until January 25, the day before the shutdown ended.
The Los Padres ForestWatch website says many parks and forests were overwhelmed by “trash, vandalism, and human waste” buildup and three national forests within California were completely shut down due to their inability to keep up.
The US Department of Agriculture Forest Service website says they had to make “difficult choices on the most critical work needed to continue” during the shutdown. Although the government is funded for now, the shutdown prevented the training of firefighters and law enforcement, data collection, fire and natural disaster prevention, and other conservation efforts from taking place. The absence of these projects and services for a three week span will continue to impact our national parks and lands. For national land in fire prone locations like Santa Barbara, these fire prevention methods are essential for keeping the community safe.
In Santa Barbara, Los Padres National Forest was able to stay open during the shutdown, but had to furlough a majority of their employees without pay, as well as suspend normal programs and resources. The Los Padres ForestWatch website says that one of the projects that had to be stopped during the shutdown was focused on studying the impacts of grazing on the Sisquoc watershed and Happy Canyon. Grazing is used to reduce the chances of fires by reducing excessive brush and grasses. Being without the data and information provided on this study could lead to increased fire danger in the future.
The longest government shutdown in US history has taken a toll on national parks and forests across the country, including locally in Santa Barbara with Los Padres National Forest. With new legislation created during the shutdown as well as the consequences caused by a three week break in normal programs and conservation efforts, the impacts of the shutdown will be felt for even longer than the shutdown itself.