Traveler's View: There's No Lack Of GOP Chutzpa In The House When It Comes To National Parks

In their latest effort to stir the National Park Service pot, 94 Republicans in the House of Representatives are striving to redefine "chutzpa."

Despite the estimated loss of at least $76 million a day in tourism-related business across the country, the furlough of more than 20,000 Park Service employees and hundreds more non-profit employees, and the ruination of countless vacations, the 93 members led by Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Michigan, are fretting over how many rangers it takes to keep the World War II Memorial on the National Mall open. Or should that be closed?


Not surprisingly, considered his unabashed rant against a park ranger in front of the memorial last week, Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, is among the signatories.

So, too, is Rep. Michelle Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican who, before she was frighteningly concerned with pinching federal pennies, pushed an earmark through Congress to spend an estimated 200,000,000 federal dollars on a bridge across the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. It was a project that four times the Park Service refused to permit because of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, as the St. Croix carries a wild and scenic designation, and which some thought was unneeded and unaffordable.

These 94 are in a tizzy over the barricades the Park Service erected around the World War II Memorial and other memorials on the Mall. They want Park Service Director Jon Jarvis to take a head count of rangers staffing the World War II Memorial and report back to them on whether the seven sighted there the other day was six too many (see attachment). Or maybe even seven too many.

They also want to know why the Park Service changed the wording on signs "placed at each of the closed memorials" from ones bearing the NPS logo to ones without the logo. Oh, and Mr. Director, please tell us how much it cost to make the switch.


We have small businesses that count on strong October tourism dollars to get them through the winter months that are losing tens of thousands of dollars, concessionaires that are losing almost $1 million a day for every day the parks are closed (let's see, today's October 10, so that's a tidy $10 million), and Rep. Huizenga and his co-signers are worried about printing costs for a few dozen signs.

We have had visitors from Japan, Australia, and China (and no doubt other countries) making once-in-a-lifetime visits to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, only to be locked out, river runners seeking a life-time experience on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon stuck on the beach at Lees Ferry, and these 94 Republicans are worried about barricades on the Mall posing an "unnecessary burden" to "the American people."

Make no mistake, the Park Service has stumbled a time or three in the way it has handled the shutdown process and enforced it. Tone deaf comes to mind in some instances, poor PR in others.

Indeed, in the case at hand, Rep. Huzinega cites a section of the Park Service's shutdown plan that states that Park Service facilities "located in urban areas where full NPS law enforcement coverage is continued due to the inability to control visitor access" would remain open.

And why would the Park Service send law enforcement rangers to shut down the Pisgah Inn along the Blue Ridge Parkway while reportedly allowing the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. -- a business the Park Service is trying to remove from Point Reyes National Seashore, by the way -- to continue business as usual?

Now, this isn't to say Democrats in Congress don't float some lead balloons, for they frequently do. But this GOP faction is rewriting the definition of frivolous and misguided representation.

Why are these 94 worried so about how much it costs "to operate an open-air site such as the World War II Memorial on a typical day," at a time when gateway communities are drowning in room cancellations and empty restaurants, when Park Service staff that wants to get back to work sits idly by and has to watch as visitors ignore barricades and enter the parks anyway, when there really, really must be something just a little bit more important to focus on?

Like, perhaps, ending the impasse that is causing this incredible dysfunction?

In the spirit of Rep. Huizenga's letter to Director Jarvis, we'd like to know:

* How much staff time it took to research and write his letter, and how much in salary that cost?

* How much time it took to seek out the 93 cosigners, discuss the matter with them, and get them to sign the letter, and how many representatives told them they were wasting their time and to take a hike (not in a national park, though)?

* Whether's he's calculated how much time, at taxpayer expense, it will take Director Jarvis to take a head count of his Mall rangers and track down the appropriate number assigned to the World War II Memorial?

* Has he given any thought to the pain and economic distress the rest of the country is going through while he's calling for a headcount of rangers on the Mall?

And as Rep. Huizenga wrote to Director Jarvis, we'd like his "prompt attention to this urgent matter."

October 9, 2013 Letter to Director Jarvis.pdf1.42 MB


It pains me to see the NPS used this way. I'm not sure how we can correct it. Maybe we need a new law. Maybe we just need a differant interpretation of the current law. There will be another shut down. The NPS shouldn't be used as a political tool.

When there is a shut down the NPS should be keeping as many things open as possible. If it costs more to close something like it has been suggested for the National Mall, then we should keep it open. I've been to the Mall dozens of times. I'm planning on going there Saturday to take a look for myself. I know that some of the times I was there I've walked completely around the mall without seeing even one ranger, The Capitol Police seem to have a bigger presence on the mall. Thanks to Mayor Gray, the police are still in full force.

I don't care who you blame for the shut down. I just want our NPS to behave differantly next shut down. How can we ensure that this happens?

Seems like this two party system we have been used to for so many years no longer works. Time for a change--- elect people who only are concerned about our country and not party politics--- the Dems and Repubs are all to blame

The GOP offered and passed to fund the NPS, but the Senate declines to even attempt to negoiate. What your seeing, and hopefully continues, is the DOI/NPS being put under the microscope. They are fishing for the person that decieded to close open air memorials.

The NPS came back the next day to WWII Veterans memorial and wired the fencing together to make even more difficult for the veterans to access the memorial. The person(s) involved these continuing unforgivable actions needs to be exposed. I have a sneaking suspcision it came from the highest level in the DOI.

Your attempts at blaming the GOP for this mess is laughable.

"Travelers View" forgot to mention what really precipitated this letter: The NPS (Obama) allowed a demonstration by illiegal aliens to take place on the National Mall, but it won't allow its own tax paying citizens to visit the WWII Memorial, the Liincoln Memorial, etc...

The House Republicans vote overwhelmingly to open the parks and the VA with nothing else on the table and the House Democrats vote overwhelmingly to keep them closed And you blame the Republicans for the current park woes? Now that is Chutzpa.

This government shutdown is entirely the fault of John Boener, who refuses to let the House of Representatives vote on the budget. There are enough votes in the House to pass the Senate's budget bill, but he refuses to bring it up for a vote.

Boener has caved in to the fanatical tea party extremists who don't believe in democracy. Our government is supposed to be run by our elected representatives. Let democracy work.

fanatical tea party extremists who don't believe in democracy

Hiker - we are not a democracy we are a republic. Our government was formed the way it was intentionlly so the majority couldn't force its will on the minority. There is nothing "fanatical" about wanting limited government (per the Constitution) and fiscal responsibility.

Is this really who you want in charge of your healthcare?

Smoky - It appears that there is a Constitutional issue involved in the rally. First Amendment. There very well may be some other parts of the story that are not being told.

ec, most of us -- and the Democrats -- are smart enough to see through the political smokescreen the Repubs are generating by trying to "reopen" the government in small chunks. That is nothing but a sleazy tactic to try to drag this all out as long as possible and try to somehow embarrass Obama and the opposite party.

While out on Antelope Island in the middle of the Large Salty Puddle, I met a German family and asked about their vacation plans. Completely messed up. But they chose to take a positive attitude and said, "But if the national parks had been open, we would not have discovered places like this." I asked what might happen in Germany if their government tried to play games as ours is doing. "It could not happen," was the reply. "We would very soon have a new government." They gave me a civics lesson, Deutsch variety, and explained that when their government loses the trust of its citizens, an election is called and a new administration and parliament may installed.

Too bad we can't do that here. I just sincerely hope that American voters will have a long enought atttention span to dump ALL incumbents from both parties in our next elections.

{A bit of much needed humor here: I first met my campground neighbors when one of them came to me and asked, "Have you any aiks?" I replied that I did, and asked how many they needed. He got a funny look on his face and said, "No, any AIKS. Aiks, for splitting firewood." We spent a little time on an English pronunciation lesson and became pretty good friends for the rest of their stay.}

are smart enough to see through the political smokescreen the Repubs are generating by trying to "reopen" the government in small chunks.

Lee - why wouldn't one fund those areas upon which they agree? Looks to me like the Dems have cut off their nose to spite their face.

And around we go.

Congress's refusal to pass a clean cr is what forced the shutdown of the parks in the first place. Then, the Dems refused to vote for an ad hoc bill that would re-open the parks. Now, there seems to be bipartisan support to pass a clean cr to re-open the parks and the rest of the gov, but Boehner will not allow Congress to vote on it. Who is ultimately repsonsible for the parks being closed at this moment probably depends on one's own political bent and/or philosophy of gov't.

May I respectfully suggest that both hikertom and ec go back and hit their high school civics textbooks again? Both are only partially correct.

The timeworn mantra that "we are not a democracy we are a republic" is a gross distortion of truth.

No, ec, when trying to deal with a hostage taker it's important not to cave in to demands to release the hostage in small chunks.

Congress's refusal to negotiate is what forced the shutdown of the parks in the first place. They remain closed because the Dems voted to keep them closed. Who is ultimately repsonsible for the parks being closed are the ones that voted to keep them closed.

t's important not to cave in to demands to release the hostage in small chunks.

Hmm - I think any hostage negotiator would disagree with you. Isn't their first request "let the women and children out".

Congress's refusal to negotiate is what forced the shutdown of the parks in the first place. They remain closed because the Dems voted to keep them closed. Who is ultimately repsonsible for the parks being closed are the ones that voted to keep them closed.

My point pretty well demonstrated. And around we go . . .

(THE WEEKLY STANDARD) -- The conduct of the National Park Service over the last week might be the biggest scandal of the Obama administration. This is an expansive claim, of course. Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the IRS, the NSA, the HHS mandate—this is an administration that has not lacked for appalling abuses of power. And we still have three years to go."

States are now looking to remove NPS and return federal lands to the states.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 10, 2013 Contact: Jordan Hennessy, 919-715-8303 Cook Statement on Cape Hatteras National Seashore Closures Raleigh, N.C. – The Outer Banks economy heavily depends on access to the beaches in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Park. President Obama’s decision to close these beaches is crushing our local businesses. Barricades have been erected to prevent access to fishing and wind surfing, the season’s most popular recreational activities. The president’s shutdown also includes the closing of the Wright Brothers National Memorial, the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center and the Avon Fishing Pier. The latter two places receive no funding from the federal government, but were forced to close because of contractual arrangements with the federal government. Obama’s administration is even threatening to prosecute the manager and owner of Avon Fishing Pier for attempting to open their business. Below is a statement from Senator Bill Cook (R-Beaufort etc.): “This shutdown is devastating to the Outer Banks Community. It will cost the North Carolina coast millions of dollars in lost tourism revenue. It seems odd to me that if the federal government is shutdown because it doesn’t have the funds to stay open, how is it able to pay park rangers to enforce the beach closing? The closing of the beaches is costing the government money that it does not have,” said Senator Bill Cook (R-Beaufort etc.). “Could the closing be more about politics than money? It’s truly unfortunate that President Obama has stated that he will veto partial spending bills that would restore funding to certain parts of the government such as federal parks. I think it’s time for the State of North Carolina to reconsider the ownership of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Park. The federal government is showing us that they’re incapable of managing the park in an efficient way that benefits not just the residents of North Carolina, but the millions of visitors that come to the park each year.”

Reading comprehension problems again, ec. I said "hostage" not hostages.

And redflagnews? Surely you jest, beachy. And are you sure that photo they include is not a team of rangers protecting a fire crew in heavy grizzly country?

Yup, just gotta love those "fair and balanced" propaganda outlets.

I truely wish I was jesting and that all of these disgusting actions by the NPS and this administration were untrue. I truely wish you could show how me all these incidents are just misunderstandings and the NPS isn't being told to "make life as difficult for people as we can".

The US Park Police(part of NPS) are the ones on the National Mall, not the MPD(DC police). Mayor Gray has nothing to do with security on the National Mall even during this shutdown. Mayor Gray is having DC Public Works pick up trash at all NPS's sites except for the interior of the National Mall and Rock Creek Park.

And I truly wish that all of us could cut through all the garbage, smoke, propaganda and outright lies coming from all sides and simply learn the truth.

As it stands now, it's almost impossible for anyone to do that.

Rather than focusing on "these disgusting actions by the NPS and this administration," shouldn't we really be focusing on "these disgusting actions by our Congress?"

Lee, this site isn't about Congress its about the NPS. The NPS claim they are just following orders. Really? Who gave them the orders? Was it Congress or was it from somewhere else?

I see it as pretty cut and dry, House passed a bill to fund the parks during the shutdown, and the Senate refused to even discuss it. The Senate leader/majority is on the side of who? (Certainly not the American people...)

Agree Lee, in evaluating our news sources, EC did make the point that maybe there is no such thing as a truly objective news source. We all see things a little bit differently, I think EC does have a point. However there is a huge difference between advocacy and a demagogue. Its truly a shame the National Parks are the victim of the latter.

Lee - "hostages" if a far more appropriate analogy. There is not one issue on the table but dozens. To not agree to accept the release of the "women and children" (the issues we agree upon) because not all hostages (everything on the table) are released would be insanity.

I think this using the parks as a political football by both politicians and top bureaucrats will be a continuing soap opera in coming years until our 'best idea' is removed from the Sodom & Gomorrah Interior Department and promoted to an independent status similar to the Smithsonian Institution. The unsustainable pork-barrel system of funding the parks has resulted in too many new units of marginal quality and put the development wing of the NPS in the driver's seat as operations budgets dwindle.

Work continues on major projects thorughout the nation, from the Washington Monument to Yellowstone, Yosemite and Olympic, while PCT thru-hikers racing early snows are blocked by rangers fifty miles from the Canadian border after two thousand miles of effort.

ecbuck wrote:

"we are not a democracy we are a republic. Our government was formed the way it was intentionlly so the majority couldn't force its will on the minority"

This does not mean that the minority can force its will on the majority. The Tea Party extremists are a minority of voters who are holding the budget hostage. Most members of the House of Representatives are ready to approve the budget and open the government.

What possible reason is there for not letting them vote on it?

Ref: Beachdum

Who gave the NPS the orders? The Office of Management and Budget.

The NPS was instructed to conduct and "orderly shutdown" of government activities that would be prohibited by the Antideficiency Act.

The Antideficiency Act requires that during a "shutdown" the federal government stop activities (of the governemnet not private citizens) that "obligate expeditures" by the government.

According to the NPS Shutdown Plan: The NPS appears to have interpreted the OMB instructions to conduct an "orderly shutdown" of activities that obligate expeditures to mean closure of all public access to all NPS owned lands and facilities.

The law that governs how a shutdown is implemented is the Antideficiency Act. No one has ever been indicted or prosecuted for violating the Antideficiency Act. The Act was created in 1870 in response to war time spending by Abraham Lincoln. The Act allows lots of room for agencies to continue staffing in order to provide for emergency response, public health and safety, and to protect property.

I didn't mean for anyone to get the idea that the Capitol Police were the ones on the mall keeping people out. What I meant was that I don't normally see many park rangers patrolling the mall. Since the DC police are in full force and do most of the inforcement anyway why close up the mall?

Mayor Gray is a hero in my book. Why can't the rest of them learn a lesson from him?

re: who "patrols" the National Mall and does most of the law enforcement there; unless things have changed recently, the correct answer would be the United States Park Police, which is part of the National Park Service. I'd guess in an emergency there are cooperative agreements that allow both D. C. police and U. S. Capitol Police to assist on the Mall, just as U. S. Park Police assist in emergencies all over the District.

The U. S. Park Police have the primary role for NPS law enforcement in the National Capital Parks in D. C. and a key if not the primary role NPS areas in the New York City and San Francisco areas. In other NPS areas, that law enforcement function is performed by park rangers who have met the training and other requirements to hold a law enforcement commission--and they are small percentage of the total NPS workforce.

I realize this can be confusing, but it's part of the reason you don't normally see "park rangers" on patrol on the National Mall. U. S. Park Police uniforms are mainly blue in color, and look like "police uniforms," so most people who see them don't realize they are NPS employees. There is a fairly significant uniformed NPS ranger presence on the Mall in normal times, and they play an important role in visitor safety and information, and provide valuable "eyes and ears" in terms of security of the area, but those employees are not law enforcement officers .

Unfortunately, I can't include a link to official info about this, since the NPS website is off-line during the shutdown. However, here's a link to a recent story on the Traveler about the USPP Aviation Unit.

As follow-up to the above about number of NPS employees working at the National Mall during the shutdown vs. "normal" times. Here's a quote in a news story from the NPS director on Oct. 3:

"We run a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, 365-day-a-year operation on the National Mall. Under normal circumstances, I would have 300 employees working on the National Mall and I currently have seven.”

"That there are the same number of U.S. Park Police on the National Mall now as before the shutdown began is true, according to the U.S. Park Police officers’ union. At any given time, there are two police officers on duty at each of the big three tourist sites on the National Mall: the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument. They are joined by a smattering of roaming officers among the less-popular sites and smaller parks."

I obviously have no way to verify the accuracy of the quote.

This does not mean that the minority can force its will on the majority.

And they are not. They are using the powers that were given to them in the Constitution to try to get the otherside to negotiate. Obama and the Dems have refused to do so. The Tea Party members don't want a government shut down any more than any one else.

"The Tea Party members don't want a government shut down any more than any one else."

Ec, what have you been smoking? (Yes, that's intended as a joke :-) The shutdown has been a pre-planned strategy for weeks by Tea Party leaders, including Sen. Cruz and Rep. Meadows, to try to force their will on both Democrats and others in their own party.

Based on every credible media report I've seen lately, the Tea Party (and Boehner's fear of crossing them) is the only thing preventing a House vote on a "clean CR" that could end the shutdown.

Mtn -

The government shut down is not the goal. It is a Constitutional granted tool that the House can use to get Obama and the Dems to negotiate.

You're welcome to claim they don't want the shutdown, but it's a "tool" the Tea Party has embraced with fervor ....perhaps at their long-term peril, and damage to the GOP in general.

Just out: "The Republican Party has been badly damaged in the ongoing government shutdown and debt limit standoff, with a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finding that a majority of Americans blame the GOP for the shutdown, and with the party’s popularity declining to its lowest level."

"Just 24 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion about the GOP, and only 21 percent have a favorable view of the Tea Party, which are both at all-time lows in the history of poll."

Thus far, there's been little comment about the actual focus of this story - the incredible waste of time and energy by Congressmen and women on trivial items such as the cost and design of a few temporary signs at the National Mall. I won't be surprised if these same folks waste more time in the future on hearings on this topic.

Meanwhile, where's the focus on a workable, long-term solution to the imbalance between federal debt vs. income, or a solution to the looming Debt Ceiling issue, or to long-term sustainability of Medicare and Social Security - or even work on finding agreement on the annual spending bills for all federal agencies that were due to be in place by Oct. 1st - and that's a deadline Congress itself established. Had that been accomplished, there would be no shutdown, except perhaps for the Dept. of Health and Human Services, which I presume administers the Affordable Care Act.

Had both parties been doing the job they were elected to do, all of the above would have been priorities back in late January when the current Congress allegedly reported to work. Instead, the current crop in Washington prefer to stall and "govern" via crises stemming from their own collective failures to act.

Amen Jim

Twice ec has claimed that the shutdown is somehow a "Constitutional granted tool" that allows the Tea Party to do what they are doing.

ec, will you enlighten us by quoting chapter and verse of the Constitution in which that "tool" is granted to anyone?

Let's be nice folks, and PLEASE stick to the subject of the post. And don't worry, there's another provocative post coming tomorrow.

Lee - Article 1 Section 1

"All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives."

Article 1 Section 7

"Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States:"

A bill has to be passed by the house and senate to become law. Or did you think it was OK for Obama to just make up the laws he likes?

Washington was right. The rise of political parties is detrimental to the proper working of Congress, as parties put their own well being above the country's.

That being said, for a few days, hikers and the few remaining equestrians get to see what it's like to be locked out. Welcome to a mountain biker's life. :)

Stretching the Constitution a bit, are we?

"Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate" sounds like the Senate is doing exactly what it should be doing. I still don't see how anything in the Constitution can allow a very small minority of extremists to bypass and completely clog the legislative process. The idea that Obama is just "making up laws he likes" is totally laughable.

The Senate is checking and balancing an out of control House. Just as it should be.

LOL at this link...

Talk about vetting sources...this article is more misinformation. Did you check the link that claims to be bad coding? You must think web developers are idiots to write codes like that...which is clearly a fake link as well. Go to the actual website and check out the source code!

The best explanation of how the democrats are responsibile for this whole mess can be found in this Thomas Sowell article:

Thank you DaveO! I'm afraid logic and facts may not sway much of this crowd, however...

Here's a view on how the President's term may end if he continues his mulish ways....

( I love Kimberley's term....)

The weirdest part of Sowell's piece is his repeated insistence that Congress is acting Consitutionally. Who exactly is arguing that Congress is violating the Constitution? Strawman.

Who exactly is arguing that Congress is violating the Constitution?

Well Rick B has called them criminals.

But the point is that the Constitution was written the way it was just so they could do this sort of thing.

But the point is that the Constitution was written the way it was just so they could do this sort of thing.

And so far, at least, the more mature and sensible Senate has been able to keep the idiocy of the House under control.

I won't retreat from terming the tea party folks and their enablers domestic terrorists.

Somehow I have a feeling that shutting down the government in a nihilistic tantrum isn't exactly what the writers had in mind when they penned the oath of office, both the original and the modern. Full and faithful discharge of duties. Defend against enemies domestic and foreign. True faith and allegiance to the constitution, not the tea party. Over 40 attempts to repeal a law which has been passed, signed, and vetted by a conservative Supreme Court, but NO bills passed to actually help the populace. Six years spent obstructing a popularly elected AND re-elected President and no a damn thing else.

Nah - shuttering the government one has sworn to support and dancing a jig on it's tombstone; that's terrorism. And it goes for their enablers as well.

Excellent thoughts, Rick.