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Dispatches : Politics

Government Shutdown Threatens to Close National Parks

Yosemite_National_Park-hd-8 A cold day in Yosemite National Park. Courtesy of Fovea Centralis on Flickr

Five months into the fiscal year, the federal government's inability to find common ground on the annual budget is threatening the closure of all federally managed parks, monuments, museums, refuges, and recreation areas. And while the politicians curse each other as obstructionists and the line of compromise approaches the forefront of objectives, those of us seeking less tempestuous climes within our National Parks may be out of luck.

If Friday night brings a government shutdown, the gates on all parks will close indefinitely and visitors will be asked to leave. Only a skeleton crew of federal personnel will remain to ensure the preservation of resources and residents, meaning emergency services (search and rescue, EMS, fire and law enforcement) will carry on as usual.

So if you've got a permit to float the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon next week, you might as well unload the car and stow the dry bags until the dust settles in Washington. Because when they say the park is closed, that means access to the entire park, including the river, is prohibited.

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Government Shutdown Threatens to Close National Parks

Yosemite_National_Park-hd-8 A cold day in Yosemite National Park. Courtesy of Fovea Centralis on Flickr

Five months into the fiscal year, the federal government's inability to find common ground on the annual budget is threatening the closure of all federally managed parks, monuments, museums, refuges, and recreation areas. And while the politicians curse each other as obstructionists and the line of compromise approaches the forefront of objectives, those of us seeking less tempestuous climes within our National Parks may be out of luck.

If Friday night brings a government shutdown, the gates on all parks will close indefinitely and visitors will be asked to leave. Only a skeleton crew of federal personnel will remain to ensure the preservation of resources and residents, meaning emergency services (search and rescue, EMS, fire and law enforcement) will carry on as usual.

So if you've got a permit to float the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon next week, you might as well unload the car and stow the dry bags until the dust settles in Washington. Because when they say the park is closed, that means access to the entire park, including the river, is prohibited.

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The Styrofoam Comeback

525736705_625d3fa527_opt
Courtesy of Flickr

Founded in 2007, Green the Capitol was Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's initiative to make the U.S. House of Representatives a leader in sustainable business practices.

Until recently, Pelosi's efforts resulted in the diversion of waste from landfills, the reduction of carbon emissions and a decline in energy use. And, according to the program's Web site: "A fundamental transformation of perspective and behavior among the House's thousands of employees."

Apparently, that last part didn't go quite as planned. As of Monday, non-recyclable Styrofoam cups replaced Pelosi's expensive but environmentally friendly biodegradable cups in the Capitol building's mini-cafeteria. According to The Washington Post, this was the first step in phasing out Green the Capitol. The $475,000 composting program was also suspended.

"I have concluded that it is neither cost effective nor energy efficient to continue the program," says Committee on House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.). A press release on the committee's Web site asserts that the compost program increased the House's energy consumption because compost had to be hauled long distances and the pulping process for biodegradable containers required additional electricity. According to the House IG, the program's carbon reductions were equivalent to removing only one car from the road every year.

Pelosi, however, disagrees. "#SoBeIt GOP brings Styrofoam & ends composting," she tweeted on Monday. "House will send 535 more tons to landfills."

--Whitney Dreier

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Japan Cuts Whaling Season Short

Whales
Courtesy of IFAW

The Japanese whaling fleet is leaving the internationally recognized Southern Ocean Sanctuary around Antarctica, where crew members have killed approximately 10,000 Antarctic whales during the last 23 years.

Despite a global ban on commercial whaling, Japanese ships arrived in the sanctuary last November with intentions of harpooning more than 1,000 whales in the name of "scientific research." Now, the fleet is heading back to port with less than half that quota, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

"Under pressure from all fronts the Japanese whaling fleet is apparently withdrawing early this season from the internationally recognized sanctuary around Antarctica," says Patrick Ramage, Director of the IFAW's Global Whale Programme. Although Japan has not released any official confirmation of events, The Courier reports ships are heading toward the Drake Passage below South America.

"We hope this is a first sign of Japanese government decision makers recognizing there is no future for whaling in the 21st century," Ramage says. "Responsible whale watching, the only genuinely sustainable use of whales, is now the best way forward for a great nation like Japan."

--Whitney Dreier

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American Hikers to Stand Trial for Spying in Iran

Tehran Three American hikers have been summoned to trial in Tehran on February 6, reports ABC News. Sarah Shourd, her fiance Shane Bauer and their friend Josh Fattal were arrested while hiking near the Iraq border in July 2009.

Due to medical conditions, Shourd was released on bail and returned to the U.S. in September. According to the BBC, it is not known whether she will travel to Iran for the trial—even if it means losing her $500,000 bail.

Bauer and Fattal remain in jail in Tehran; the U.S. has requested they be released on humanitarian grounds.

For more on the initial arrest of the three hikers in Iran, check out the Outside feature, A Mountain of Trouble.

--Whitney Dreier

 

Courtesy of Flickr

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