As the winter months fast approach, many of us in Florida typically begin to spend more time outdoors. However, as a result of the government shutdown, our national parks, wildlife refuges, historic battlefields and national forests all across Florida are closed to visitors.
Florida typically sees a flood of visitors starting in late fall who come to experience the warm climate, beautiful beaches and iconic places such as Everglades National Park. Last year in October alone, nearly 650,000 people visited the park. This year they will be greeted by closed gates and empty ranger stations.
What’s worse is a majority of personnel from the Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture are temporarily out of work, halting many of our nation’s critical clean air and clean water programs. Despite this lack of environmental oversight, most public lands and waters remain open to oil, gas and mining operations, further threatening their well-being.
Having the doors close on “America’s best idea” is bad enough, but keeping our public lands and parks open to private mining and gas drilling companies that are polluting these treasured landscapes in spite of these closures is truly deplorable.
I urge leaders to support a budget that restores funding to Florida’s parks and gives our agencies the resources they need to keep our air and water clean and our parks and forests protected from pollution and development.
The writer is a field associate for Environment Florida.