The Shutdown Trickle Down ~ Impacts On Our National Park Gateway Communities

The Shutdown Trickle Down ~ Impacts On Our National Park Gateway Communities

For 34 days The United States Federal Government has been in a partial shutdown.  Pretty much since the beginning, the natural environment has been feeling the effects. Big Cities and small towns from coast to coast that serve as gateway communities near our national parks are on the frontlines of a political conflict that has put at risk the conscientious management of public land. 

About 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed from their jobs or are required to work without pay. Among them are more than 27,000 National Park Service professionals.  Interpretive rangers, law enforcement officers and maintenance personnel have a long tradition of working in partnership with local environmental advocates in the communities they serve . Now with a dramatically reduced federal workforce, private businesses, nonprofit organizations and cambers of commerce across the country are  struggling to protect the natural resources that are so vital to their economic stability and way of life.

In the hopes of better understanding exactly how the shutdown has impacted these gateway communities I made a few phone calls. I wanted talk to people on the ground who can speak directly to their experience of managing our National Parks with little to no government assistance.

John Lauretig is one of six board member of Friends of Joshua Tree, a nonprofit organization that serves the interests of Joshua Tree National Park.

“And I’m kind of the Hands-On director of some of the programs we support here in Joshua Tree in the national park, climber coffee, climber stewards program, and the HARP program, which is the hardware anchor replacement program,” Lauretig said in our conversation. “And most importantly I am a member of the JOSAR volunteer search and rescue team that friends of Joshua Tree supports and we augment the Park Service search and rescue team. 

As someone with hands-on experience with day to day operations at Joshua Tree, Lauretig is the a good person to ask about how the Shutdown is affecting the Park.

“Because of the shutdown we are no longer allowed to do any JOSAR training. So we haven’t done any team training either with ourselves or with the park staff,” he said. “So all of that has stopped. Climber coffee has stopped because it was hosted by a park ranger and the climbers stewards when the campground was open were allowed to stay in the campground. But they weren’t allowed to work they weren’t allowed to do the volunteer jobs. And then when the shutdown happened one of the local climbing guides called and said. You know if the maintenance isn’t done on this park we’re going to need to clean bathrooms, take out trash like right away because you know this is during the holidays and this peak visitation. We have you know 200,000 visitors come to the park in the next 10 to 12 days. We knew right away that we had to get the power curve on this.” 

Unmanned visitor centers, garbage cans overflowing, filthy restrooms …and that was a month ago. Under the government shut local gateway communities are picking up the slack at our national parks. While the president and members of Congress argue over the cost of a wall on the U.S. Southern boarder ordinary citizens across America are paying a very high price. In this episode of the Joy Trip Project we take a look at the trickle down impact of the federal government shutdown on gateway communities near our national parks.

When this story was recorded the Government shutdown had been going on for 34 days, the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Today, on Friday January 25th federal employees will miss their second paycheck. In addition to the impact on hundreds of thousands of hardworking government professionals and their families this shutdown is being felt across every sector of our economy in the lives of millions of people. Even the landscape of the natural environment is being effected. Our National Parks are already facing a backlog of differed maintenance totaling almost 12 billion dollars. As park entrance fees collected under the Federal Land Recreation Enhancement Act, so called FLREA funds, are being diverted to cover the cost of daily operations, the long-term preservation of our public lands and national monuments is more at risk than ever before. If we can’t come to an understanding, to end this ridiculous partisan bickering some of the damage that is being done at this very moment, right now may very well be permanent.

A Joshua tree that was severed amid a rash of vandalism at Joshua Tree National Park in California during the partial government shutdown.CreditCreditGina Ferazzi/Los AngelesTimes, via Getty Images

The edition of the Joy Trip Project podcast is based on an article published in SNEWS,  the outdoor industry online trade magazine, entitled “The Trickle Down Effect of the Government Shutdown”. You can read it at 

Our theme music is provided by Jake Shimabukuro. Additional melodies in this production were provided by Artlist.

Special thanks to the representative of the the Rocky Mountain Conservancy , Friends of Joshua Tree and Great Smokey Mountain Associationfor sharing their thoughts and insights.


The Joy Trip Project is made possible by the support of the Next 100 Coalition a diverse group of environmental activists working toward equity and inclusion in the management of public land through the next century and beyond. Learn about its members and current initiatives at

Thanks for listening! But as always I want to hear from you so please drop me a note with your questions comments and criticisms to Or better yet subscribe to the feed on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher or wherever most fine podcast platforms can be found. There you can leave a message or a write review, but most of all don’t forget to tell your friends. Now go be joyful. And until next time. Take care!