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Yosemite National Park: Photograph by Justin Brown, flickr

Adventure on Hold: The Government is Closed

We have a bit of a crisis on our hands at the moment, fellow adventurers. Unless you’ve got your head in the sand, you’re painfully aware that the federal government has shut down. Federal lands are closed for business. Adventure destinations across the country are off limits. Go knocking, and the sound of your pounding will fail to rise above the din of bipartisan bickering that has left our country without a budget, and our federal lands without a key to the door.

This is pretty bad timing. Not that there is ever a good time for parks to close. But fall is a peak season for many businesses that depend on the outdoors. Leaf peepers, hunters, and others come out in droves to enjoy our national parks and other public lands at this time of year. Many vacations are planned far in advance, promising to pump valuable dollars into the communities that serve hikers, climbers, hunters, and other outdoor adventurers.

Now visitors who have traveled from near and far are being turned away from our national parks and other public lands. In an ironic twist, October 1—the day the government shut down—was Yosemite National Park’s 123rd birthday. Nobody could go to the party. The famed monolith, El Capitan, celebrated alone—a solitary, towering candle left unlit on its special day.

This is bad for businesses—large and small, urban and rural—that depend on access to our nation’s parks, and public lands and waters. Outdoor recreation is big business in this country. Americans spend $646 billion on outdoor recreation annually—more than they spend on pharmaceuticals, gasoline and motor vehicles each year. Wrap your head around that. It ain’t pocket change, people. It’s a big engine that fuels our economy.

When Americans get outside, their spending directly supports local communities and 6.1 million jobs. Consumer spending on outdoor recreation produces $80 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue each year. It’s just plain crazy to lock out access to lands and waters that generate a return for the local and national economy.

To make matters worse, with the government shut down, you can’t make plans or get permits for later, essentially stalling potential economic benefits from our nation’s resources. This means that the impacts of this closure will echo far into the future, harming the businesses, communities and people whose livelihoods depend on outdoor recreation.

The long-term repercussions of the shutdown remain to be seen, but it is clear that each day that our public parks, trails and waterways are locked up, business suffers.

If this matters to you, do something about it. Contact your members of Congress now and demand they end the shutdown, and recognize that investing in America’s network of public parks, trails and waters, creates jobs, and supports businesses from urban to rural communities. The Outdoor Industry Association website has resources to help you make the case for the outdoor recreation economy. Check it out and lend your voice to the cause.

Avery Stonich is director of communications for Outdoor Industry Association. Follow us on Twitter: @OIA and @averystonich.