WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The difference between national forests and national parks is never more obvious than on the cusp of a federal government shutdown.
All across America, the National Park Service is preparing to close its 384 sites that cover 84 million acres. For those of us in Washington this week it could shut down the cherry blossom festival and close off the national parks and museums along the mall.
But national forests will stay open because there aren’t gates to close. Yellowstone will be closed but the Sawtooth National Recreation Area will be open as usual.
But many employees of all federal agencies, from the Bureau of Land Management to the Internal Revenue Service will go on furlough if the government shutdown proceeds.
Few campgrounds are open yet so the shutdown won’t affect that. Bogus Basin operates on national forest land under a permit and it will be open this weekend no matter what.
It’s a little early for controlled burning on the Boise National Forest and federal officials are still trying to decide where they draw the line between essential and non-essential fire programs. Safe to say that firefighters will be out fighting wildfires across the nation as directed from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.
But prescribed measures that aren’t necessary are likely to stop. Hopefully the shutdown would be over by the Snake River Birds of Prey Festival in May.
The Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers were still figuring out their strategies for shutdown this morning. But releasing water from Lucky Peak Dam to prevent a flood and serve irrigation districts is certain to continue.
I sat in the House of Representatives gallery Thursday and watched the raucous debate over the Republican continuing resolution, the so-called troop funding bill. Republicans loudly applauded Majority Leader Eric Cantor when he said the government is bankrupt and we could no longer continue the status quo.
Democrats responded with hooting and hollering as Minority Leader Steny Hoyer urged Republicans to structure their resolution like Democrats did for George Bush so that shutting down the government was off the table. Each side said they didn’t want to shut down the government. The remarkable scene was more like the British House of Commons.
The bill passed but its not clear what the Senate will do and the last statement from the White House was that President Obama would veto it.
So I’m not planning to tour Gettysburg Saturday until I hear more.