10.10.13

Closed Part 2- The Friends Grassroots Network Experiences the Impact of the Shutdown

Since the shutdown, the Friends Grassroots Network has directly experienced the effects through the termination of all volunteer activities and events.  The government shutdown has also led to: the closure of visitor centers including Friends offices; cancelation of all recreational and education events; and serious economic impacts on gateway communities reliant on the tourism market sustained by the National Conservation Lands. Below are just a few examples of the negative effects the shutdown has had on the National Conservation Lands, Friends Groups and gateway communities.

  • Friends of Black Rock High Rock were forced to cancel a restoration event in which local high school students would have planted 1,500 seedlings to restore Sage Grouse habitat lost by wildfires.  The high school students have been cultivating these seedlings for months.  “There is such a narrow window and this planting has already been delayed due to drought issues last spring.”  Karren Dallett, Executive Director, Friends of Black Rock High Rock, NV
  • Colorado Canyons Association had to cancel a 2-day trail monitoring training in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area (funded by REI).  They also had to cancel two interpretive hikes, open to the community, in Gunnison Gorge and Dominguez Escalante National Conservation Area.
  • Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, which receives over a million visitors a year is closed, including the offices for the Friends of Red Rock Canyon.  A recent article in the Las Vegas Review Journal highlighted how the shutdown is affecting the small business owners of Las Vegas Cyclery. “October is usually their busiest month of the Fall, but now the closure of Red Rock’s scenic loop is costing them roughly $1,500 a day.”
  • Agua Fria National Monument depends on its 71 volunteer site stewards to monitor and help protect petroglyphs and other archeological resources.  Along with other volunteers from the Friends of the Agua Fria National Monument, site stewards are shut out of Agua Fria, leaving these cultural treasures vulnerable to looting.
  • Friends of Ironwood Forest National Monument were forced to cancel their annual “Meet the Monument” event, in which they introduce the community to the Ironwood Forest through hikes and educational events.
  • Crow Canyon Archaeological Center runs a cultural exploration program in the Four Corners including Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.  They are scrambling to revise these trips to exclude all public lands and help tourists whose itineraries are now useless.
  • Members of Grand-Staircase Escalante Partners have experienced the impacts to gateway communities first hand.  “Since the shutdown we have been in Kanab, UT and Page, AZ.  The shutdown has had a great impact on all of the small town local economies: lodging, restaurants, gift shops, grocery stores & tour operators are seeing a lot less business.  Some stores have even closed for the season.”  Sara and Marty Wilson
  • The Friends of San Pedro River is housed and runs a bookstore within the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.  Both are closed.  The Friends are losing revenue from the bookstore and from donations.  They are still paying their bookstore manager, but cannot afford to for much longer.  In addition, the Friends have canceled several Interpretive and Bird walks within the NCA.
  • The Friends of Sloan Canyon canceled an educational hike to Petroglyph Canyon.
  • Greenwire recently published an article Shutdown squashes visitor boom at new N.M. monument.  The article noted that since the designation of Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, local visitation has increased by 40 percent.  However the government shutdown has stifled tourism and local businesses are suffering.  “These businesses already have few employees, they run very lean in operations,” said Laura Sanchez, CEO of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce.  “So when faced with having to scale back, they have to make tough decisions about laying people off, and I think that’s a huge fear for people.”

These are just a few of the negative impacts the shutdown is having on the National Conservation Lands.  As these impacts will intensify over time, we are extremely concerned about the implications to the National Conservation Lands.  We remain hopeful that BLM will be able to resume its work in the very near future.