Shutdown Theater: Governor Scott Walker defies order to close Wisconsin state parks
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker refused to yeild to a directive from the National Park Service that would have closed all or part of several popular state parks.
The state Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday refused a directive from the National Park Service to close a host of popular state properties because of the federal government shutdown.
The park service ordered state officials to close the northern unit of the Kettle Moraine, Devil's Lake, and Interstate state parks and the state-owned portion of the Horicon Marsh, but state authorities rebuffed the request because the lion's share of the funding came from state, not federal coffers.
State officials opted to keep public lands open as Gov. Scott Walker blamed both Republicans and Democrats for the partial government shutdown and said congressional leaders should run the nation more like Wisconsin. Democrats balked at those comments, saying the Republican governor has had a tumultuous tenure that has divided people.
Even though federal lands such as the Apostle Islands National Lakeshorehave been shuttered, the DNR issued a statement saying all state parks, trails and other recreational properties were open and not affected by the federal government's budget problems.
The agency also reopened a boat launch Wednesdayat Wyalusing State Park on the Mississippi River. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closed the launch on Tuesday because it was on federal land.
But in a sign of defiance, the DNR removed the barricades at the landing, saying it had the legal authority to operate the launch under a 1961 agreement with the federal government.
On Tuesday, vast swaths of land were closed by the federal government because of the budget stalemate.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closed all its properties, including the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge and the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge. The agency said that fishing and hunting on those lands were prohibited.
The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest also was closed. But the status of hunting and fishing on the 1.5 million acres was unclear. DNR officials gave no indication they would try to stop the public from using the forests.
On Wednesday, state and federal authorities came to loggerheads over access to state land when the Park Service directed the DNR to close properties in which the state and the federal government had a cooperative financial agreement.
The federal agency provided the DNR $701,000 for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, according to the DNR. The DNR said the majority of money for the parks comes from the state and that it would usestate funds to continue operations.
It's the "you didn't build that" mindset that posits the notion that if one dime of federal money is spent maintaining the park, the government gets to shut it down. I'm not sure of Walker's legal footing here but Washington would do well not to pick a fight with the governor. I'm sure he'd be thrilled to engage in a high profile war with the National Park Service over keeping state parks open. It would give a boost to his visibility and remind GOP primary voters of his combative nature.