From Deer Flat to Frank Church Wilderness, government shutdown hits Idaho’s outdoors

Winter trail etiquette in Boise Foothills

Here are some tips to protect the trails during the wet winter months.
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Here are some tips to protect the trails during the wet winter months.

As the government shutdown stretches into its third week, the impact on national parks — from overflowing toilets to shuttered sites — continues to make headlines. But even in Idaho, where the only national park is a miniscule portion of Yellowstone that bleeds over the state line from Wyoming, the shutdown has a big impact on the outdoors.

Sixty-three percent of Idaho is federal land, managed by various agencies frozen by the gridlock in Washington, D.C. While there haven’t yet been reports in Idaho of trash heaps and vandalism, multiple monuments, national forests and wildlife refuges across the state are unmanned.

At Nampa’s Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, multiple events have been scrapped due to the shutdown.

“Unfortunately, this event is canceled due to the lapse in federal appropriations,” read posts on the refuge’s Facebook page.

Other areas, including Craters of the Moon and Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, are still accessible but will not be staffed or maintained, according to social media accounts associated with the sites.

In addition to potentially stinky situations, unmaintained sites can also be dangerous, particularly in winter conditions.

In a post offering tips for responsibly visiting federal sites during the shutdown, outdoor ethics group Leave No Trace warned adventurers to be ready for wilderness.

“No rangers on patrol — roads blocked by fallen trees — bridges washed out. You should check a park’s ‘shutdown’ page before visiting for closures and other relevant issues, but know that this is now old information, and things may have changed (likely for the worse),” Leave No Trace advised.

The U.S. Forest Service, which maintains trails and campgrounds in the Boise National Forest and wilderness areas such as the Frank Church River of No Return, is also shuttered. Calls to Forest Service ranger stations on Monday were met with recordings stating that staff would not be available during the shutdown.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Idaho branch warned on its Facebook page on Dec. 21 that “some areas are accessible, however, access may change without notice, and there may be no BLM-provided services.” The agency oversees Craters of the Moon, Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area and hundreds of acres of wilderness areas and miles of trails.

Of course, there are still plenty of places to spend time outside in the Treasure Valley. State- and city-run parks are still being maintained and staffed, and the network of Ridge to Rivers-owned trails in the Foothills have not been affected, either.

If you find yourself itching to spend time in the unmanned wilderness during the shutdown, Leave No Trace offers one overarching piece of advice: Prepare to pack out everything you bring in — and yes, that includes poo.

Do you know about other outdoor areas affected by the federal government shutdown? Let us know at outdoors@idahostatesman.com.
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Nicole Blanchard is the Idaho Statesman’s outdoors and insight reporter. She grew up in Idaho, graduated from Idaho State University and Northwestern University and frequents the trails around Boise as much as she can.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.