Thank goodness the Trump administration is working overtime to keep parts of the country’s national parks and monuments open even without staff in the event of a federal government shutdown this weekend.
It’s good to know that President Donald Trump and his aides understand the love Americans feel for the hundreds of sites run by the National Park Service, and get the importance of these treasures to millions of visitors worldwide. It’s heartwarming to see the administration responding to the affection people have this time of year for warm-weather spots like the Everglades and Death Valley, cross-country skiing and winter touring in Yosemite and Yellowstone, and pilgrimages to NYC’s own Statue of Liberty.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Trump and company felt the love 365 days a year?
Earlier this week, 10 of the 12 members of the board that advises the National Park Service quit their posts. The reason: They had been totally marginalized, frustrated that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who oversees the national parks, would not meet with them and did not call a single meeting last year. Last month, Trump signed a proclamation based on a Zinke recommendation to dramatically shrink two national monuments in Utah. At least two others are slated for downsizing. Trump and Zinke love federally protected lands so much they want to open them up to mining and drilling.
What’s really going on, of course, is that Republicans want to avoid the debacle of October 2013, when the last shutdown closed parks and monuments nationwide. That led to howls of protest and searing images of angry veterans in wheelchairs pushing through barricades to get to the World War II Memorial in Washington. The Statue of Liberty was closed for nearly two weeks until Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a deal to have the state pay the $61,600 a day needed to have federal workers there. The GOP, which controlled Congress then and now, took most of the blame. The party didn’t love it then and wouldn’t now.
The clock runs out Friday at midnight. Perhaps love for our national parks will inspire budget negotiators to keep the entire government open, too.