Impacts of the government shutdown reach local wildlife and forests

Impacts of the government shutdown reach local wildlife and forests

Conservation Northwest / Jan 11, 2019 / National Forests, Work Updates

From limiting public input on forest restoration to complicating fisher releases, the government shutdown is affecting important local conservation efforts.

By Chase Gunnell, communications director

As the impasse in the other Washington drags on, there are a few notable examples of the federal government’s shutdown impacting Conservation Northwest’s work for local wildlife, wildlands and rural communities.

Reintroducing fishers is a collaborative project that includes partners from the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service. The government shutdown is complicating this effort. Photo: Chase Gunnell

The next release of fishers into the North Cascades has been complicated, with important logistics delayed as a result of inaccessibility to our partners at the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service, many of whom have been furloughed.

This project to reintroduce a native species has been almost universally popular in Washington state, with deep engagement from local communities, tribes, businesses and more. It’s a shame to see key government partners have to sit on the sidelines while the other Washington quarrels. 

Our Forest Field Program collaborates with national forest staff to restore public lands, benefiting local communities, forestry businesses, wildlife and wildfire resilience. Important meetings with Regional Foresters have been canceled as a result of the shutdown, delaying planning for upcoming forest restoration work.

It can be difficult under normal circumstances to get diverse stakeholders together to hash out complicated forest management and restoration policies, but not having the participation of vital government representatives brings these typically constructive talks to a standstill, and creates tremendous uncertainty.

White River in the Greenwater area of the Mount-Baker Snoqualmie National Forest. Public comments on an important forest management plan in this area will be excluded, due to the shutdown. Photo: Ralph Maughan

One example is the Snoquera Forest Restoration Project in the Greenwater area of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, which we’re engaging in through our Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration program. The U.S. Forest Service had a scoping comment period open for public input, but the government shutdown overlapped the final weeks of this comment period leaving no one at the office to answer questions and guide engagement.

The shutdown caused confusion during a key public engagement period for an important forest management plan in an area north of Mount Rainier that is intensely popular for a wide variety of stakeholders, from indigenous tribes and elk hunters to hikers, skiers and forestry businesses.

A similar scenario may soon follow in the Lake Wenatchee area, where the Upper Wenatchee Restoration Project is set to go to scoping by the end of this month. This effort is vital for reducing the risks of wildfire to the community of Plain and thousands of nearby homes and cabins, yet the project could soon be delayed if the government doesn’t get back to work.

Conservation Northwest is particularly effective at conserving our natural heritage in the Pacific Northwest because of our strategic and innovative approach. One of our biggest strengths is collaboration—bringing diverse groups and interests together to find common ground and win-wins—and the absence of our important partners at federal agencies is taking a serious toll on the wildlands and wildlife we strive to protect, connect and restore.

It’s time for President Trump and senate leadership to end the government shutdown that’s unfairly harming civil servants, damaging priceless national parks, and holding-up effective conservation work that benefits Pacific Northwest wildlife, wildlands and people. 

Morning fog lifts over the Lake Wenatchee area on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, where an important project to reduce the risks of wildfire to nearby communities could falter due to the government shutdown. Photo: Chase Gunnell


Collaboration is a vital tactic for creating durable conservation progress. Learn more about the ground-breaking coalitions we’re a part of here