By Jim Stanford on October 1, 2013
Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks are being barricaded today, and all public access closed, thanks in part to Wyoming’s lone congressional representative, Cynthia Lummis.
Lummis is part of an extreme faction of the Republican Party seeking to hold the federal government hostage over implementation of the 2009 health care law. She voted repeatedly this weekend and last night to send a budget bill to the Senate that was dead on arrival.
Without funding, all federal agencies, including the National Park Service, were forced to close.
On her website, Lummis said she did so to protect Americans from “the onslaught of Obamacare.”
Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott held a conference call this morning to outline the closure in her jurisdiction, which includes the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway connecting Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
Aside from Highway 26/89/191 between Jackson and Moran, all of Grand Teton park is closed to visitor access and recreational activities, Scott said. Visitors may not even stop at scenic turnouts along the highway.
All visitors must leave “as soon as practicable,” Scott said. There were 552 rooms and campsites booked within the park yesterday, she said.
Access will be allowed to Dornan’s and the Moose post office, but a barricade will prevent further access to the west. The Moose-Wilson and Teton Park roads are closed. No river trips, wildlife tours or other guided activities will be permitted. Visitor centers, bike paths, trails and boat ramps are closed.
The superintendent said decisions on how to implement the closure were made in Washington, D.C., not in her office. But the restrictions are not unlike other closures she has experienced during her career, she said. Republicans last shut down the government and the parks in 1995-1996, for three weeks.
Already, some park visitors have reacted angrily, trying to drive through closures and cursing at rangers, Scott said. No arrests have been made.
“We appreciate visitor adherence to respecting closures,” she said. “Please realize a shutdown is a very difficult thing for all of us to do. … Our staff has absolutely no decision-making power or discretion in making these closures.”
Nearly 200 of the park’s 240 employees have been furloughed. Only those working in law enforcement, emergency response, boundary protection and critical infrastructure remain on the job.
Scott called the shutdown “devastating to morale.” Employees even are prohibited from working in a volunteer capacity. “It is our nature to welcome and educate and bring visitors into parks,” she said. “It’s a crushing experience to be put on furlough and told to not work.”
The Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center on North Cache Drive in Jackson also will close. Visitor information will be available at the Home Ranch building instead.
Scott said there is no timetable for reopening the parks. “We hope Congress acts quickly to provide funding for the federal government,” she said.
The phone number for Lummis’ office in D.C. is 202-225-2311, although her voice mailbox was full and not taking additional messages this morning. Her email address is email@example.com.
For more on how the parks came to be closed, watch this clip: