A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. New River Gorge National River in West Virginia encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.
Big Southern Butte is one of two domes rising from a sea of basalt near the center of the eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho. The butte is one of the largest volcanic domes in the world, but at 300,000 years old it is also one of the youngest. Hikers who trek to the 7,550-foot high summit are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. Photo by Devin Englestead, BLM Upper Snake Wildlife Biologist.
First light at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Established in November 22, 1939, the refuge has provided a critical stopover and wintering spot for thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl for 75 years. Bosque del Apache's sandhill crane population has multiplied from 18 birds in the 1840s to more than 20,000 birds today. Photo by Kim Hang Dessoliers (www.sharetheexperience.org).
It remains my hope that the Congress acts swiftly to reopen the Government. In the meantime, I wanted to provide a few updates and, most importantly, thank you for your ongoing commitment to public service and to the national parks.
For those who are on unplanned furlough, I want you to know that you are missed. I know many of you are spending time with your family, continuing to give back to your community through a variety of local volunteer efforts, and taking care of household business. I am sure that all of you are frustrated and would like to return to work, and it is my hope that the shutdown will end soon so we can all return to doing the jobs we love.
For those of you who are at work keeping the parks and the public safe, I want to thank you for your service and professionalism in this challenging time. Because of the lapse in funding, you are having to deliver difficult news to our visitors and partners. The functions we must perform under a shutdown are not the reasons any of us joined the National Park Service, but they are the duties we are required to perform by law and regulation. In this time, we must remain focused on our mission – first and foremost – of guarding public safety and protecting the resources with which we are entrusted. I am proud of the service you are continuing to perform, from the search and rescue operation at Craters of the Moon to the U.S. Park Police's response to the tragic incident near the Capitol last week.
The National Park System is supported and loved by the American public not only because national parks are beautiful and historic, but because they are well managed, protected, interpreted, and maintained by a professional workforce. With more than 20,000 workers on furlough during this lapse in appropriations, we must continue to devote our limited resources to the protection of life and property.
Without question, we all want to see the entire national parks and public lands system re-open to the public; we know the closures are having unfortunate impacts on countless families, businesses, and communities. Turning visitors away is simply not in our DNA.
As Ken Burns said, the National Park Service is an utterly democratic idea: for the first time in human history, land was set aside not for kings or the very rich, but for everybody. The National Park System strives to tell the story of all Americans, for all Americans. I know we all look forward to re-opening all 401 national parks so they may fulfill the purposes for which they were intended – to be enjoyed and loved by the American people.
Amid the difficulties that the ongoing shutdown poses on you and your families, I am deeply heartened by your continued commitment to public service and by the passion that the entire National Park Service family has for our mission, now approaching its 100th anniversary in 2016.
Please stay strong, safe, and continue to do your nation proud.