A Word from Our President 10.1.2023


A Word from Our President 10.1.2023

As I write this, a few days before the end of September, it appears likely that we are headed for another shutdown of the federal government. I know this game. In the more than three decades that I worked for a federal land management agency, I went through more than a dozen such events, and the practice has, if anything, only intensified since then. The longest such event, which lasted 35 days, took place in 2019. Now, we seem ready to march off into this morass yet again.  

My frustration with these events – and that’s the nicest word I can use for my feelings – is that these recurring political “crises” have had nothing to do with the great majority of federal programs that serve the American public – programs like public lands management.  I think we can agree, in fact, that when some policy disagreement in Washington reaches the boiling point of forcing a government shutdown, the question in mind has never been one having anything directly to do with public lands. 

But public lands are inevitably affected. Let me amplify that point, when government shutdowns occur, public land programs, and their many users, are inevitably victims.  Many of these political events have seen full or partial closures of places like national wildlife refuges and national parks. Sometimes only visitor centers and information offices closed, but often public access to public lands has been closed off as well.  

So, if we have a shutdown this year, the real losers with regard to public lands will not be the politicians who believe such confrontations are useful, but instead the American citizens who support places like national wildlife refuges and parks with their taxes and look forward to using them.  

And just in case you misunderstand how all this works, no money whatsoever is saved in these affairs. When the inevitable Congressional compromise finally occurs, whether it be after one day or a full month, all the federal employees who were furloughed during the shutdown are paid in full for all the time they did not work. As I said above, when it comes to public lands, it is the users who are punished. 

By the time you read this in early October, we will all know whether our Congress has concluded it is in the best interest of the nation to shut down our federal government yet again. We will also know, if the shutdown occurs, just how severe the access restrictions to places like Malheur National Wildlife Refuge will be and therefore how much the refuge and its users will be impacted.   

Let’s hope we dodge a shutdown this time. Government shutdowns accomplish little and are particularly damaging to public land management and visitor enjoyment. There must be a better way to resolve these things.  

– Wm. Tweed


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