The impact of a Yellowstone shutdown extends far past the number of visitors denied entry to America’s oldest national park–in fact, the impact extends hundreds of miles beyond the five entry gates.
The most obvious impacts of a Yellowstone closure will be felt by visitors potentially turned away from the five entry gates as early as Monday morning. As we noted in yesterday’s overview of the potential shutdown, most National Park Service (NPS) sites will be closed completely down early Monday after the government runs out of money at 12:01 a.m. Sunday: “At NPS sites across the country, gates will be locked, visitor centers will be closed, and thousands of park rangers will be furloughed. Accordingly, the public will be encouraged not to visit sites during the period of lapse in appropriations out of consideration for protection of natural and cultural resources, as well as visitor safety.”
As of 10 a.m. local time Yellowstone officials had not confirmed the extent or the specifics of a Yellowstone shutdown. In previous shutdowns we saw the Park remained partially open for one winter closure (concessionaire facilities were open; NPS offerings were shut down with workers furloughed) and closed for the others. A statement from Xanterra notes that the concessionaire has not received any official word about a Yellowstone closure, noting that its offerings are open through Sunday. Lake Village, some Canyon lodging and Old Faithful Lodge are slated to close tomorrow, in any case.
October is a surprisingly busy season in Yellowstone, although many services, restaurants and accommodations already closed or closing this weekend. (Click here to see what’s open and what’s closing at Yellowstone.) Weather is also impacting the area: The Beartooth Highway (US-212) between Long Lake barricade, near Top of the World Store, and the Montana/Wyoming state line will close on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 3 p.m. due to forecasted winter weather conditions.
Once you get past the Park itself, the impacts will be felt deeply in the immediate gateway communities–West Yellowstone, Gardiner and Cooke City. From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:
Terese Petcoff, executive director for the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce, echoed the shutdown would have detrimental impacts to the town.
The only silver lining is that this isn’t in the middle of the summer tourism season, Petcoff said. Still, October is a busy month, and lodges losing out on an entire month of reservations — or longer — would be “another blow” and “a nightmare.”
Tens of thousands in tourism dollars for Gardiner would be lost if the park was closed in October, Petcoff said.
The consequences could be even more dire for Cooke City, which relies on NPS workers for snowplowing to maintain access year-round. The North Entrance to Cooke City route is the only Yellowstone road open year-round.
Unlike governors in Utah and Arizona, we’ll see no Montana state money used to keep some entry gates open: per the Daily Chronicle, Montana Gov. Gianforte wrote in an email that “National parks are the responsibility of the federal government, and Montana taxpayers shouldn’t have to pick up the tab because Congress can’t get its job done.”
Past that, there would also be impacts on the gateway communities open farther afield, such as Bozeman, Billings, Cody and Jackson. Fewer tourists means reduced spending on flights, rental cars, hotels and supplies.
As of this writing the House of Representatives had not settled on a plan to avert the government shutdown. The deadline is midnight tonight.
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