Grijalva: Shutdown Has Damaged Public Lands, Indian Country, U.S. Economy – Dem Funding Plan to End Shutdown is Best Step Forward

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who is expected to chair the House Natural Resources Committee during the 116th Congress, said today that President Trump’s ongoing government shutdown has significantly damaged the economy and our national parks and public lands, and that he will support the package of House Democratic bills to fund the government and end the shutdown. The House is expected to vote on that package this evening.

“This is not self-inflicted damage, this is Republican-inflicted damage,” Grijalva said today. “President Trump and his enablers seem happy to let this shutdown grind our economy, hurt Indian Country and put our public lands at risk indefinitely. It shouldn’t be hard for my colleagues to choose between funding normal government operations and making communities suffer for the sake of the president’s ego. The Democratic funding bills set good priorities and should become law.”

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Shutdown Impacts

The shutdown has had dramatic impacts across the Department of the Interior and related agencies. Toplines are available below.

Native American Support

According to a Jan. 1 New York Times report, the shutdown has trapped members of the Navajo Nation in the Southwest in their homes due to unplowed roads in remote areas, and has put many families in severe economic distress. Law enforcement officers for the Bois Forte Indian Reservation in Minnesota are working without pay because they are federal rather than Tribal employees. Similar scenarios, the report suggested, are playing out on Tribal land across the country.

  • The Bureau of Indian Affairs currently has 2,455 furloughed employees – approximately one-third of its labor force.
  • The Bureau of Indian Education currently has 40 furloughed employees.
  • Fifty-four percent of funding for the Indian Health Service, which offers health care to more than 2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives, is normally transferred to Tribal governments. Those transfers have stopped during the shutdown. A September 2018 Government Accountability report noted that during a previous shutdown, one Tribe incurred higher interest rates on a loan due to financial uncertainty, leading to an otherwise unjustified lower credit rating for the Tribe.

National Parks and Public Lands

  • National parks are losing approximately $400,000 daily from fee revenue, putting losses around $5 million to date. (source)
  • During the month of January, national parks normally generate an average of $20 million per day in economic activity, supporting communities across the country. National parks normally see an average of 425,000 daily visitors in the month of January. While the shutdown’s impacts on visitorship have yet to be studied, the poor condition of unplowed roads and the well-publicized lack of visitor services and sanitation are likely to have an overall negative effect. (source)
  • Cooperating associations housed in NPS-owned buildings are suffering financially. The Big Bend Natural History Association anticipates a weekly loss of at least $35,000.
  • The shutdown has closed some local businesses in national parks, such as Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports located at the top of Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. The road to the ridge is closed because no NPS personnel are around to plow the park.
  • A hiker in Big Bend National Park broke his leg during a hike on Christmas Eve. Because rangers and emergency responders were not on the job, he had to be rescued by local volunteers.

Democratic Funding Features

The Democratic bill to fund environmental agencies for fiscal year 2019 includes $425 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which Rep. Grijalva strongly support and intends to permanently reauthorize early in the 116th Congress. Topline budget highlights for each agency in the Committee’s jurisdiction – many of which would receive an increase from fiscal year 2018 funding levels – are available at http://bit.ly/2Tr7axg.