Reason Takes a Holiday: Day 2: Daily Dings to Our Health and Environment from the GOP's Government Shutdown
Shutting down the federal government isn’t some far-off fuss. It will have real impacts we’ll see, feel and hear of all around us. What’s disturbing is they don’t need to happen at all, but they are because of political shenanigans played by congressional Republicans. Reason is taking a holiday.
Every day of the shutdown, I’ll post some of these impacts on matters that are close to home for all of us: those that affect our environment and public health. To be sure, they will affect millions of Americans who use government facilities for recreation and education, and many millions more who indirectly rely on federal services to protect their health and safety.
(October 2)--Day Two consequences of the GOP shutdown:
- National Wildlife Refuges off limits
No bow-hunting for white-tailed deer at the Cameron Prairie NWR near Bell City in southwestern Louisiana. Fishermen seeking black bass at North Carolina's Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge also are out of luck, as are hunters and fishermen planning excursions to any of the nearly 150 million acres of national wildlife refuge lands and waters closed to public access due to the government shutdown.
Hunting, fishing and other wildlife-related recreational activities pump some $144 billion a year into the national economy. And, while the lands are set aside for protection, hundreds of national wildlife refuges allow fishing and hunting. Not now. All 561 national refuges are closed and all activities on them canceled, so long as the shutdown remains in effect.
The National Wildlife Refuge System hosts more than 46.5 million people per year. Refuges also support more than 35,000 private-sector jobs.
- It’s Hard to See the Grandeur of the Grand Canyon
Access to the 1.2 million-acre iconic Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona has been blocked. Employees were given four hours to secure files and property and leave a voicemail saying they’ll be out of the office, indefinitely. The park’s campgrounds, trails and hotels are closed. About 18,000 people a day visit the Grand Canyon usually in October.
- Energy Star Program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Blinks Off
Energy Star, a voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals protect the climate and save money through energy efficiency, is shut down. Processing of applications by builders seeking verification that a new home or building meets Energy Star standards is on hold. More than 1.4 million new homes and more than 20,000 facilities today carry EPA's ENERGY STAR certification. Updates to ENERGY STAR qualified product lists and release of draft ENERGY STAR applications also will be delayed.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs halted and entire USDA website offline.
Colorado ranchers, Kansas corn farmers and North Carolina soy bean growers who get technical advice and financial credits for wise soil management, letting buffers grow wild or other sound conservation practices, are finding phones unanswered and doors closed at the local Farm Service Agency offices that administer U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs.
The Farm Service Agency, which works with hundreds of thousands of farmers and ranchers on a daily basis, closed its offices serving Ainsworth, NB and Spotsylvania, VA and roughly 2,500 other field services offices in states nationwide. Processing farm loans will be delayed. Enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program has been halted.
Click on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website, www.USDA.gov, you see this note: “Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available. After funding has been restored, please allow some time for this website to become available again.”
For the time being farmers and ranchers have no access to information about a host of conservation services and programs, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Conservation the Reserve Program, the Grassland Reserve Program, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program, and the Wetlands Reserve Program.
Here’s Day One of consequences of the GOP’s rash act:
- Every one of the 401 parks, monuments, historic sites, national waterways, and memorials in the National Park Service will be closed immediately to new visitors, from the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Campers and other guests inside the parks will have 48 hours to leave. Businesses in gateway communities near park entrances, like Flagstaff, Arizona, or Jackson Hole, Wyoming, near Yellowstone, would lose $30 million a day, according to an estimate by the National Park Conservation Association.
- The Bureau of Land Management, responsible for managing 245 million acres, mostly in the West, will have to end or limit many of its activities related to outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production. Campgrounds and visitor centers will be closed, outfitters will not be able to operate on BLM-managed lands, and work would cease on non-emergency Abandoned Mine Land operations, which aim to improve water quality, and hazardous material mitigation efforts.
· Money could soon run out work on Environmental Protection Agency Superfund cleanup sites that are contaminated with toxic materials. EPA Remedial Project Managers must approve each step in the construction or project as the work progresses. They will not be on site to do this. The funding for contractors has not been all spent, so they can continue for a few weeks, before the end of FY 13 money is gone. However, if they are at a stage requiring EPA approval, they will have to halt cleanup work.
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