Surrounded by soccer gear and dirty socks, I fulfill my duty as my good friend’s nanny. He is currently absorbed in a remake of Yogi Bear, while I sit to write on the real Yellowstone’s fate. The villain of his movie plots to cut Jellystone Park into agricultural plots and sell it for logging. He claims there is not enough money and this is a way to boost profit. What I have sat down to write on parallels the movie’s plot, though I fear it will not share the happy ending.
Perhaps the government shutdown’s most obvious impact for Bozeman was the National Parks closing. In Montana alone, 4,492 park service employees have been furloughed and $1,578,082 in tourism revenue is being lost daily. While these impacts are hard to ignore, what is happening to the parks is going unnoticed. With Congress so passionately divided, it’s easy to think congress has become completely incapable of accomplishing anything, but this is not the case.
According to the Wildlife Society, Congress is accomplishing something. They are considering three bills that would divide up and sell public land and National Parks. The first, the Yosemite Rim Fire Emergency Salvage Act (H.R. 3188), would allow logging in Yosemite among other public lands. The second, the Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2013 (H.R. 2657), would divide and sell public land in ten states, including Montana. The third, the Small Lands Tracts Conveyance Act (H.R. 1633), would “give away vast swaths of our public lands, including Forest Service, wilderness and BLM lands to state, county and local governments for oil, gas and mineral rights.” The reason for the legislation is to boost profits, assist oil and logging companies and reduce federal deficit. Does this sound similar to Yogi’s cartoon villain to you?
In regards to the shutdown, I am disappointed to see Congress prove its incompetence on such a massive scale, but not surprised. What does surprised me is now that people have no paychecks and public lands are shut down, these are the bills Congress finds time to consider. One would think our representatives, understanding they work for the people, would be thinking of our lives and economies—that they would work to reopen our parks, not sell them.
As a Montanan I feel I can speak for much of my state when I say we care a great deal about our beautiful public lands. It is not a political issue; it is a part of our identity. I grew up backpacking in Glacier and swimming in the Boiling River in Yellowstone. These places have made myself and many others who we are today. Not only do we deserve to have these lands protected, we have a responsibility to protect them as the places that taught us who we are.
Public lands are places we go when we can no longer take the relentless nagging of our televisions, the unfair laws and jobs we hate. These are the places that remind us why we still hold some pride in being American. To lose them would be to lose part of ourselves.
If you are someone who shares this admiration and respect for our public lands, I urge you to write your representatives. I urge you to follow bills H.R. 3188, H.R. 2657 and H.R. 1633 and to look toward originations like the Wildlife Society for ways to help. This is not politics; this is our home. Fight for it.
Rep. Steve Daines
Email done through: https://daines.house.gov/email-me
Sen. Jon Tester
Phone: (866) 554-4403
Email done at: http://www.tester.senate.gov/?p=email_senator
Sen. Max Baucus
Phone: (800) 332-6106
Email done at: http://www.baucus.senate.gov/?p=contact