9 Things to Know About Federal Public Lands Now that the Government Has Shut Down


The federal government has entered a partial shutdown on 12.22 that affects the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. This means there are some major changes to access to public lands, including NPS and Forest Service lands and sites. Here are 9 things to know:

1. Most National Park Service lands will remain open but unstaffed. Any portion that requires services (visitor centers, bathrooms, etc) will be closed. Risky, dangerous, and sensitive areas (including places like Minuteman NHP in Boston) will also be closed. If any portion of a park (including the full park, in some cases) is shut and locked during off-business hours, it will be closed during the shutdown. NPS campgrounds are a different matter with this being the official word from the Department of the Interior "The NPS will cease providing services for NPS operated campgrounds, including maintenance, janitorial, bathrooms, showers, check-in/check-out and reservations. Visitors in campgrounds will not be asked to leave but should be advised that no services will be available. In addition, visitors holding campground reservations for a later date will be advised that the NPS is not operating campgrounds, including providing check-in/check-out services during a shutdown. There is no guarantee their reserved campsite will be ready and available should they arrive during a government shutdown"

2. NPS employees will be on furlough, with no access to phones, websites, or social media accounts.

3. The fate of recreation.gov is clear, it is now down and not accessible for new reservations or modification of existing reservations. Anyone who has a reservation that falls within the shutdown calendar will receive a full refund. Other NPS sites, such as NPS.gov, the individual parks sites and other federal public lands websites (like Fish & Wildlife) remain online but clearly, they will not be updated as the employees are on furlough.

Zion National Park, photo by Amy Beth Wright.

Zion National Park, photo by Amy Beth Wright.

4. All recreation sites across the U.S National Forest System are closed, unless they are operated by external parties under a recreational special use permit. No new backcountry permits will be issued. Major roads that run through National Forests will remain open, though services such as snow removal will cease.

5. Open air monuments, like the World War Two Memorial, will remain accessible to the public though they will not be staffed.

6. National Wildlife Refuges generally look to stay open (as they did in the last shutdown), on a case by case basis, though all with no services (visitor centers, bathrooms, EMS/Fire, etc)

North Cascades National Park, photo by Derek Wright.

North Cascades National Park, photo by Derek Wright.

7. National Forest and Army Corps of Engineer facilities will be closed. Campsites are technically closed with no services, if any were previously provided.

8. While the possibility is highly remote, as nearly all federal employees are furloughed, you could be subject to possible law enforcement action if found on closed federal land.

9. State and local parks will remain open! There are some great options out there, explore more and find your park.

Banner photo by Bryan Mills / CC 2.0