Climbers Respond to Government Shutdown

Posted on: October 4, 2013

The homepage this week.

Tuesday, the first day of the U.S. government shutdown, National Park Rangers across the country gave visitors 48 hours to vacate federal lands: National Parks, National Forest and BLM land.


Rangers in Yosemite blasted a loudspeaker at El Capitan, reported, "Government shutdown. Yosemite National Park will be closed to recreating." Through traffic in Yosemite will still be allowed, the website also said, but "barricades and traffic cones are at the pull outs.... Even employees are not supposed to be recreating." All activities on park grounds are considered illegal.

One local Yosemite climber we spoke with explained, "The rangers let people start up El Cap [on Thursday], but no more." He said, "Today I hid in the back of a friend's car then jumped out and ran up the Four Mile Trail.... I ended up making an illegal free solo linkup of the Steck-Salathe on Sentinel Rock and the NEB (Northeast Buttress) on Higher Cathedral Rock."

Today, Stacey Powells, director of the California radio stations KMMT and KRHV, is promoting an Occupy Yosemite event. Protesters will enter the park through Tioga Pass and head to Tuolumne Meadows. All protesters risk citation.

The Access Fund issued this statement: "Some public lands and trails that do not require staff may remain open for the duration of the shutdown, though without rangers or amenities. Staff will not be on duty and amenities, including campgrounds, will be closed. Bathrooms will be locked and water has been cut off in many scenic areas and campgrounds."

According to the National Park Conservation Association, in month of October, National Parks typically see about 750,000 visitors and contribute roughly $30 million dollars to local economies.

October 14 Update:

As of October 12, Rocky Mountain National park has temporarily reopened its gates to the tune of $40,000 per day. The park is currently operating on funds appropriated from Colorado's tourism budget. The governor's office stated that they may ultimately seek reimbursement for these funds.

"The economic impact of closing Rocky Mountain National Park has been extremely tough on Estes Park and Grand Lake, local businesses, neighbors, and partners, particularly after the historic floods on the east side of the park and surrounding communities," park officials said in a statement. Locals predict that the park's reopening will provide benefit to the local tourist economy. Bear Lake Road, Moraine Park and Horseshoe Park are all open, with Trail Ridge Road opening as soon as it can be plowed.

Sources: Anonymous climber,, my.npca.prg,,, CBS Denver, National Park Service

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I don't think the exhortations to "drown the courts with citations" and flaunt civil disobedience are smart. The legal system will not protect you.

If you want to recreate on Public Land, do so intelligently, evade the rangers, and DON'T GET CAUGHT!

No judges will be sympathetic to moral arguments. They will simply see this disobedience as an affront to the government's (and by extension, the court's) authority. Punishment will be zealous and unavoidable.

Asserting public access to public land is certainly, as you say, a good cause. But over-eager martyrs are not heroes, they're idiots.

Defy corrupt power, yes! but don't expect mercy if you get caught.

2013-10-10 15:23:17

So buildiman explain to me why congress men can still use the gym locker rooms albiet without towel service but still have lights, hot water, and can still enter. but us poor civilians cant even use a pullout on the highway , without any amenities, nothing but a pullout, to take pictures of the tetons. these are our parks to use. We dont need water, never mind hot water. I just want to walk in the woods. If you park people follow the example your bosses set in washington,we would be able to walk in the park . Ed Abbey would be horrified at the pussification of us wilderness lovers Cmon monkey wrenchers where are you? I dont advocate riding your bike down the park trails but walking ,doing no harm, just civil disobedience. Drown the courts with citations. get a fine and make the ranger who wrote it ,take the day and go to court . peaceful resistance. I'm going for a walk If I get caught Oh well at least it is in a good cause . Cmon nps people Do whats right take the day off. your politicians did , thats why we're in this spot

2013-10-10 13:33:56

buildinman, I'm an experienced Leave No Trace backpacker that moved my life 2,000 miles to be near the Sierras...literally. I don't require Ranger supervision to adhere to the Leave No Trace ethic. That ethic comes natural, because I love the beauty of nature. But due to government shut-down, suddenly I am a danger to the natural resources and am not to be trusted. Please explain that to me. If you see me heading through the backcountry and feel compelled to chase me out, just what are you protecting? And don't say, "the resources," because just a few days ago, as long as I had a permit in my hand, you weren't concerned about the resources. By running me off, what have you prevented? Anything? What is it that you think I'm going to do that's devastating to the resources that you say you are there to protect? With or without you, you'll never see any evidence that I was there. Please respond.

2013-10-10 00:42:14

You have a choice. You can be a human being, or a jack booted douche,

2013-10-09 23:28:39

While I think Scotty's nazi comparison was overwrought and unproductive, I otherwise agree with his argument. "I'm just doing my job" is no defense when your job entails using the threat of physical force to prevent people from enjoying their public lands. This is immoral, plain and simple.

Law Enforcement Rangers DO have some discretion in this matter. In my local park, I've witnessed rangers prowling in the woods, camped out on a trailhead at 3am, and chasing climbers through the woods. This clearly takes individual initiative, and goes above and beyond simply following orders. To me, it seems more like a hyperactive sense of ownership over the parks, and a macho desire to bust "outsiders".

I'm sure there are many many rangers, even LE rangers, who have the best of intentions. Buildinman sound like one of them. Perhaps you'd look the other way if you encountered an innocent citizen on public land. I'm sorry to paint you with the same brush, but you all wear the same uniform.

Buildinman's admonition to "vote to replace your representatives in washington" is fatuous. Our corrupt political system is designed to channel popular discontent into the familiar and safe two-party system. R's get mad and D's, and vice versa. The power structure is very well developed to deal with this anger; it is simply diffused with the illusion of choice. Nothing ever changes, because deep down all politicians are the same.

The only option left to individual citizens is evasion and disobedience.

Finally, buildinman's rescue scenario ("I am sure that your tune changes when you get hurt in the backcountry...") is insulting and irrelevant. I've never asked you for anything. I'm only asserting my right to live on this earth, to explore the public spaces, and to play in the mountains. This is my prerogative; my risks are my own.

2013-10-09 21:40:53
scotty vincik

Attention, "buildinman", you are making a conscious choice to deny people access to national parks, and you are equipped to and sworn to back it up with lethal force. There is no amnesty for your deliberate ethical decisions. Nazi soldiers offered the same defense for their atrocities. The explanation that, "we were only doing our jobs", grants you no immunity from immoral action. Think long and hard about what you feel is right, and choose your side carefully. You work for the people to whom the parks belong. Your decision to enforce this shutdown places you at odds with them, and it is reasonable that they use comparable force in reclaiming what has been taken from them. This isn't a threat, but a request that you look at this ethical quandary, in all it's seriousness, and decide if, maybe, this is a good time to support the people, and offer resistance to the leaders who are failing them.

2013-10-07 19:33:22

As a Law Enforcement Park Ranger just doing my job, I take offense to the previous post, but you are entitled to your opinion. Just remember, we are pawns in this whole mess as well, as we would much rather have the parks open operating as usual. Don't take your frustration with the government out on the Rangers that are left dealing with a very upset visitor population. Remember this next time you can vote to replace your representatives in washington and vote to get people that will actually do their jobs. We would not be doing this job if we did not care about the resource that we protect. If we just wanted to get off on being cops we would work as county deputies or city cops, the pay is better and there is less political crap that comes with working for the government. I do this job because I can protect places that I love. I am sure that your tune changes when you get hurt in the backcountry and need one of us "armed enforcers" to come rescue you.

2013-10-06 20:50:05

Public lands are free and open to all persons. The fact that access is being held hostage for a political dispute is unacceptable. ————————————————————————— In order to demonstrate our lack of acceptance, we should avoid, bypass, and subvert the closures whenever possible. ————————————————————————— Remember, Law Enforcement Rangers, as enforcers of the Federal Government, represent the authority and legitimacy of that government. By refusing to govern, Washington DC has abdicated its authority, and therefore Rangers can no longer claim legitimacy.

Rangers are now simply men with guns, attempting to prevent us from exercises our natural freedom. They should be treated with the fear and contempt that all such men deserve.

We, the lovers of nature, are the true stewards of public lands. We have the unalienable right to enjoy the earth in any manner that leaves it pristine. Do not delegate that stewardship to a corrupt government and its armed enforcers, but rather use stealth and intelligence to exercise your rights.

2013-10-05 14:00:10
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