The federal government, on the other hand, has no skin in the game when it comes to shutting down monuments and national parks thousands of miles from Capitol Hill. For the feds, it’s all a political game in Washington, DC. What happens in the communities bordering federal lands — many of them rural — is but a mere afterthought to people like Nancy Pelosi…

Mises Wire

by Ryan McMacken

Government Shutdown Shows Why We Need to Decentralize National Parks

The federal government is in the midst of a partial “shutdown.” Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of money flowing to a great many government departments. And even those workers who experience deferred salaries during the shutdown will almost certainly get their back pay paid in full.

But as always occurs during these so-called shutdowns, many of the most popular amenities offered by the federal government are being shut down. This includes the national parks such as Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Back during the 2013 shutdown, under the Obama administration, the federal government took an especially punitive position. The administration sent armed government agents to shut down the parks. It sent in extra staff to erect barriers around some monuments — monuments funded by private trusts — such as the World War II memorial in Washington, DC.

This time, the feds are being a little bit more laissez-faire about it.

Rather than sending armed guards barking threats and orders at visiting taxpayers, the administration is simply closing down services. Most of these “services” of course, won’t be missed by most people. But when the government closes off all the bathrooms and outhouses, things can start to get messy.

And this, apparently is what’s happening at parks such as Joshua Tree National Park, where the land along the roads is in danger of becoming one big outdoor latrine.

Some volunteers have attempted to address the issues:

“Once those port-a-potties fill up there’s no amount of cleaning that will save them,” said Sabra Purdy, who along with her husband, Seth, owns the rock-climbing guide service Cliffhanger Guides in the town of Joshua Tree.

The 40-year-old Purdy is among dozens of volunteers who have been collecting garbage, cleaning bathrooms and generally keep an eye on the park. Local business owners and park supporters are donating toiletries and cleaning supplies.

“People are doing it because we love this place and we know how trashed it’ll get if we don’t,” she said.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Contrary to the myth that public lands would immediately be sold to rapacious developers and oil drillers were the lands to fall into the hands of state or local governments, the reality is that public lands such as those in national parks are usually viewed very favorably by surrounding communities and by the voters in the states in which they are located.

As tourist attractions, and as giant recreational areas for locals, public lands are quite valuable as indirect sources of revenue for both private- and government-sector institutions in the area.

The federal government, on the other hand, has no skin in the game when it comes to shutting down monuments and national parks thousands of miles from Capitol Hill. For the feds, it’s all a political game in Washington, DC. What happens in the communities bordering federal lands — many of them rural — is but a mere afterthought to people like Nancy Pelosi. But at the local level, access to local tourist attractions could mean a restaurant’s ability to pay its staff with income from tourists.

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