Badger State trail riders and other outdoorsmen may be relieved to discover that Wisconsin’s state parks and forests remain open during the federal government shutdown, although national leaders urged otherwise.
State properties are open to the public, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). County- and local-run facilities are open as well, even as the federal government debacle in the nation’s capital continues. Trail rides, campouts, running races, and other public events continue in Wisconsin's state parks and forests.
Cathy Stepp, Wisconsin DNR Secretary, made this October 2 announcement:
“Fall is one of the best times of the year to get out and enjoy the 1.5 million acres of state owned land in Wisconsin. We welcome visitors to our state parks and forests...to climb one of our observation towers and take in the beautiful fall colors, bike or hike our state trails, and hunt or fish on our many state wildlife and fisheries areas.”
Pending further notice, the US government has shuttered federal properties in Wisconsin, such as:
- Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
- Chequamegon National Forest
- Nicolet National Forest
- St. Croix National Scenic Riverway
- Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge
The Ice Age National Scenic Trail workdays, supervised by the National Park Service (NPS), have been postponed during the shutdown.
Fire protection and law enforcement services are still operational throughout Wisconsin parks and forests – even on those closed during the federal government shutdown.
The NPS had instructed state DNR officials in Wisconsin to close the Devil’s Lake, Kettle Moraine, and several interstate parks, but Badger State park authorities refused to do so. Apparently, these sites are primarily funded within the state. The Wisconsin DNR even reopened the Wyalusing State Park boat launch on October 2, removing barricades, after the US Fish and Wildlife Service closed it.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker lobbed a bipartisan barb at federal leaders on October 2 in Madison. “I think blame can go around for everybody [for the federal government shutdown],” Walker told reporters.
“The best way to resolve it? Look at what we did in Wisconsin. We had a $3.6 billion deficit; we now have more than a half-a-billion-dollar surplus….I think not just in Wisconsin but in states across the country there's a lot of governors and lawmakers in both parties who wish the folks in Washington in both parties would act more like the states and less like our nation's capital."
Wisconsin equestrians, hikers, anglers, and other outdoorsmen are advised to check current park statuses before visiting, as conditions may change.
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