The National Park sites in the Jemez Mountains may close during a possible government shutdown starting this Sunday (October 1). A group of extreme-right congresspersons has refused to allow any “continuing resolution” to pass in the last two weeks in the US House of Representatives. Without authorized funding, most functions of the federal government will cease during a shutdown, which could last for weeks. National Parks rely on congressional appropriations.
Only law enforcement rangers in the National Parks are considered essential employees in the context of a government shutdown. These rangers will be in place to protect the parks and their facilities. All other NPS employees will be either working without pay or off the job entirely.
The New York Times reports that the Biden administration plans to close and secure the parks to protect their resources. Parks funded by states during the shutdown may stay open.
Both the Valles Caldera and Bandelier National Monument have not yet revealed plans for how the public could or could not use these parks during the shutdown.
During the Donald Trump administration, the national parks were kept open with a bare minimum staff in the 2018 shutdown. The result was widespread vandalism, theft of natural and cultural resources, off-road vehicle play in treasured desert parks, and an overflow of garbage and sewage.
The National Park Service employs 20,000 people at 400 sites.
The State of Utah donated $80,000 to the National Park Service in 2018 to keep Zion, Bryce and Arches National Parks open during a partial government shutdown. The Utah politicians understood the power of national parks to draw people to spend money in Utah and support tens of thousands of jobs in the parks and outside the parks.
Jon Jervis, former Director of the National Park Service under President Obama told Outside Magazine that visitors spend $14.6 billion in National Parks every year. “That money supports 378,400 jobs and generates over $50 billion in total economic output,” he said.
For New Mexico, the government shutdown couldn’t come at a worse time. The final big tourism event of the summer, the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, happens October 7 to 15 this year and thousands of Fiesta attendees flock to Bandelier and other NPS sites after the early morning balloon launches. If Bandelier and other parks like Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument are closed, the NPS and local businesses miss out on millions in tourist fees and spending.
MAGA followers in the House of Representatives are attaching extreme demands to continuing resolutions proposed in the House. Even if Republicans in the House pass a CR with these demands attached, the Senate and the Biden administration would not accept them. For example, House republicans have demanded that the Pentagon end all climate change related work.
We will keep Caldera Action readers up to date on any announcements Jemez parks, including the Manhattan Project National Historic Park make relative to the shutdown.