By Sarah Kiefer, Chattanooga, TN – Among the hardships the government shutdown has caused, the closure of National Parks has been a major set back for nature lovers across the country.

It may seem as though closed National Parks are the least of our worries during the shut down, but this lapse in protection for the parks may prove to be damaging.

Without the protection of park rangers and other park stewards, our country’s National Parks are left unprotected and vulnerable to poaching, illegal backcountry campers and unruly visitors.

All of which can lead to endangering wildlife, damaged trails and countless other injuries to the protected landscape of National Parks.

Some people are led to believe that the parks belong to the American people and should be reopened, with or without the protection of park rangers during the shutdown.

What those people fail to remember is the National Parks do not belong to the American people. On the contrary, the parks do not belong to anyone.

We are merely stewards of the land; our government funds National Parks so they can be protected while, at the same time, we can enjoy them.

The sole purpose of National Parks is to preserve major significant landmarks and scenic areas for future generations to enjoy.

Human interaction without protection can be disastrous for any landscape. Erosion from hiking trails, littering and increased vehicle traffic are all things the National Park Service protects our precious landmarks against.

If people do not respect the temporary closure of the parks and still choose to use the trails or camp as if the parks were open, they are endangering the landscape and potentially putting their own lives at risk.

As poaching is on the rise, illegal hunters are more likely to be a safety hazard for people hiking and camping illegally in the parks. Without park rangers to enforce hunting laws, it simply is not safe.

Instead of risking your life and entering our National Parks illegally, visit any State Parks, all of which will remain open during the government shutdown.

Tennessee’s State Parks have a lot to offer, so take this opportunity to visit a new landmark that might just be home to your new favorite hiking trail or campsite.


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