We've now entered the fourth day of the government shutdown, and the economic impacts are already being felt by states all over America. As it turns out, the environmental services provided by the government – everything from running our national park system to renewable energy development – is quite an important part of our economy.
The most obvious and immediate effect is the loss of roughly $76 million every day from the closure of national parks and zoos. This loss of revenue will have a ripple effect throughout local economies, impacting small businesses, restaurants, lodges, and so on.
According to the Center for American Progress, the hit to the National Parks Service is adding “insult to injury,” as they were hit particularly hard by previous funding cuts, as well as the sequester cuts earlier this year:
Since 2010, the budget to operate national parks has been slashed by 13 percent in today’s dollars, or $315 million. Chronic underfunding of national parks and public lands has contributed to an estimated $12 billion backlog of deferred maintenance at national parks.
As a result of mandatory funding cuts under the sequester, the national parks were unable to hire 1,900 workers for the busy 2013 summer season. Several national parks, including the Grand Canyon, Glacier National Park, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, had to implement seasonal closures, reduce visitor-center hours, and cancel interpretive programs. Twenty-nine national wildlife refuges had to close for hunting in 2013 as a result of the sequester.
But even though tourists won’t be able to enjoy our federal lands, the dirty energy industry is still allowed full access. As the funding for energy exploration is provided by the companies themselves, they are exempt from the federal rules put in place that demand all “non-essential” services be immediately put on hold.
This doesn’t mean that drillers are enjoying this shutdown. The Interior Department was forced to stop the permitting process for energy exploration, leaving the dirty energy industry unable to open up any new areas for exploitation.