The budget/healthcare fight raging in Congress has left nature and wildlife photographers stranded as US national parks are closed as the United States government shut down all but critical operations at midnight. Popular parks such as Yosemite, celebrating its 123rd year today, are closed to all comers. Visitors already staying in the parks have to leave within 48 hours.
Today's Google Doodle Celebrating 123 Years of Yosemite National Park
Driving is allowed on the main thruways through parks, but stopping is not allowed.
Major tourists sites, such as Liberty Hall and the Statue of Liberty, are also closed.
Interestingly enough, the security personnel needed to make sure the parks remain off limits is considered critical and will remain on duty. Am I the only one who sees a certain irony in the fact that a public park is closed to the public when the government stops functioning?
Planning for future visits or applying for a commercial photography permit in any of the parks is also impossible at the moment, as the National Park Service has shut down all its websites, except for a page saying the parks are closed.* The Park's website normally hosts 750,000 webpages and serves 91 million visitors a year.
The US Department of the Interior, to which the National Park Service belongs, has three pages on its site explaining the procedures, addressing some questions and describing the consequences of the shutdown.* The latter document says 401 parks are closed, the department misses out on $450,000 dollars in fees a day and surrounding communities stand to lose much of the estimated $76 million visitors spend there per day.
The Department says the parks will reopen the moment the shutdown ends. That seems to depend largely on the Republicans in the House of Representatives.
Some news sites have reported that it would also be impossible to apply for passports and visas, but that information is incorrect. The US Department of State operates its passport and visa offices as usual.
Some more information can be found here:
*Please note that these pages are likely to be shut down after the government opens up for work again. They are valid as of the date of this post.
By John van Rosendaal