Government shutdowns are very confusing events, and it's not always exactly clear what happens with things like National Parks. Different things have happened during different government shutdowns over the years. Not all shutdowns are the same. Administrations have important decisions to make about actually locking the gates.

There are 63 actual National Parks in the United States, with hundreds more national park sites. 2 of the most famous National Parks are located partially in Montana - Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park. How and why would the federal government shut down? According to Reuters:

"Congress must allocate funding to 438 government agencies each fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. If lawmakers don't pass those bills before the new fiscal year starts, those agencies will be unable to continue operating as normal."

Government shutdowns aren't terribly rare, but most of them don't last more than a few days. But when they do last a while, the impacts are obviously felt much more. Having a National Park closed for just a day or two isn't a big deal. Having it closed for a few weeks is a big deal and causes big problems.

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Anyone remember the piles of trash and overflowing bathrooms in the National Parks during the last shutdown that lasted 35 days starting in December of 2018? This happened because the National Parks roads were technically open, but the administration at the time decided not to fund the trash removal or maintenance of public facilities within the parks. Kind of a "they're shutdown but we're going to leave the doors open so, do whatever you want" situation.

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So what does happen to National Parks during a government shutdown? What SHOULD happen to avoid problems, is to close them fully (not partially) and be consistent across all the states. Having an unclear message about 'what's going on' makes an already stressful situation for worse. Reuters continues:

It is not clear whether the United States' 63 national parks would remain open. During a shutdown in 2013, the Obama administration shuttered parks due in part to safety concerns, losing an estimated $500 million.

In the 2018-19 shutdown the Trump administration kept them open with public restrooms and information desks closed and waste disposal halted. Some states, such as New York and Utah, paid for their sites to stay open and staffed during the 2018-2019 shutdown.

Photo by James Lee on Unsplash
Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

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