TRAVEL NEWS | The Many Travel Related Ramifications of the Government Shutdown
As the government shutdown stretches into its third week, everything from the safety of air travel to the cleanliness of national parks and access to popular museums is being impacted.
With political leaders appearing no closer to a budget agreement, a variety of nonprofits, businesses and even state governments are scrambling to pull together money and volunteers to maintain the cleanliness and safety of the country’s treasured national parks, according to the Associated Press.
Those efforts, however, are not able to solve all the issues arising at the parks as the partial shutdown drags on. Trash and human waste are piling up at parks and there have been reports of theft and poaching as well.
National Park Service spokesman Jeremy Barnum has said that for most parks, there will be no National Park Service-provided visitor services, such as restrooms, trash collection, facilities or road maintenance during the shutdown. Some services may be provided by concessionaires or other entities.
"Leaving the parks open without these essential staff is equivalent to leaving the Smithsonian museums open without any staff to protect the priceless artifacts," Jarvis wrote in The Guardian.
Additional travel related impacts of the shutdown include the closure of the 19 Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo in Washington, which shuttered last Wednesday.
Due to the #GovernmentShutdown, Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are closed. We will update our operating status as soon as the situation is resolved. We do not plan to update social media other than to inform you of our operating status.
— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) January 2, 2019
Importantly, the National Zoo said in a statement that it plans to continue feeding and caring for the animals during the closures.
"A shutdown will not affect the Zoo's commitment to the safety of staff and the standard of excellence in animal care," said the statement, according to CNN.
The National Gallery of Art and National Archives have also closed. However, Ellliott Ferguson, president, and CEO of Destination DC, said the majority of Washington D.C. related attractions remain open.
Air travel is also taking a hit amid the government impasse. This past weekend, it was reported that TSA agents have been forced to call in sick and spend their time searching for cash-paying jobs to cover living expenses while they're not receiving government paychecks.
The TSA agent callouts have triggered concern among officials who say they could diminish the security measures in airports and cause wait times to increase. The safety and security risks associated with the lack of TSA staff prompted the president of the Air Line Pilot Association, International to write a letter to Trump imploring him to stop the shutdown.
“I am writing to urge you to take the necessary steps to immediately end the shutdown of government agencies that is adversely affecting the safety, security, and efficiency of our national airspace system,” stated Captain Jo DePete, president of the Air Line Pilot Association, writing on behalf of 61,000 pilots.
Trump has not responded.
Pilots are not the only ones expressing concern. The National Air Traffic Controller Association (NATCA) told Business Insider that air traffic control centers are already understaffed and with the shutdown, air traffic controllers are not getting paid.
Meanwhile, the park service is scrambling to do its best to keep the parks from being severely damaged.
The park service has reached deals with more than 60 partner groups, concessionaires and states to handle trash removal, restroom cleanup, and other basic tasks at more than 40 parks, CNN reported.
In New York, the state is paying to continue operating the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island National Monument. In addition, a private company has donated portable toilets for several locations on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
More than $50,000 has also been donated by a nonprofit to keep 15 rangers on the job for the time being at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina.
However, with Trump promising the shutdown could last months and years, some are now calling for the parks to be closed altogether to protect them from significant damage.
“Our national parks deserve better than an improvised patchwork of emergency care,” Diane Regas, CEO of the Trust for Public Lands, said in a letter to President Donald Trump. “They need robust funding and full-time protection, or they should be closed.”
Written by Mia Taylor