Care about local wildlife refuge? Demand end to Trump’s shutdown

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category icon Editorials, Opinion

In many parts of Camas-Washougal, the ongoing federal government shutdown over Donald Trump’s border wall boondoggle — now the longest shutdown in United States history — has been easy to ignore.

This week, however, the shutdown flew straight to the heart of Camas-Washougal when it stymied a tradition for those who love the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge outside of Washougal. More than 50 volunteers who had hoped to plant native trees at the local wildlife refuge as part of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day community service project, discovered the planting had been canceled due to the government shutdown.

While we recognize this isn’t a tragedy — especially considering that hundreds of thousands of federal employee families are struggling to pay their bills, Coast Guard members are risking their lives without pay and thousands of Native Americans are going without medicine and water — it is worth noting that the shutdown is beginning to seep into our area and negatively affect one of the places Camas-Washougal residents hold dear.

The 1,049-acre Steigerwald Lake refuge is one of 562 national wildlife refuges in the U.S. According to the Wildlife Society, the shutdown is taking its toll on the nation’s refuges with many reporting vandalism and dumped garbage while U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services employees are furloughed.

In early January, the National Wildlife Refuge Association, the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Retirees Association said the refuges and national parks should be closed to the public during the shutdown.

“It is simply impossible to steward these shared American treasures properly, leaving thousands of lands and waters accessible to the public with no staff on site, even for an emergency,” they wrote to Trump.

Shortly thereafter, Trump did order a few hundred furloughed employees to return to their appointed wildlife refuge sites — not to take care of the wildlife or ensure people are treating the environmentally sensitive areas with respect, but to make sure hunters can still bag their trophies during the shutdown.

Even if you don’t care about preserving the environment or wildlife for future generations, the economic benefits of our nation’s wildlife refuges, including Steigerwald near Washougal, the Ridgefield refuge in northern Clark County and the Franz Lake refuge in nearby Skamania County, are undeniable. According to a 2013 report, the nation’s wildlife refuges generate $2.4 billion in sales and nearly $343 million in tax revenues, support more than 35,000 jobs and contribute a total of roughly $4.5 billion to the U.S. economy.

Is Trump’s border wall worth destroying so many lives, negatively affecting our nation’s most cherished lands and allowing our economy to suffer?

If you answered “no” to that question, it is time to face that fact that we all have to demand our legislators, both Republican and Democrat, move to end this shutdown immediately, as it’s extremely unlikely that Trump, a man known for his stubbornness and greed, is going to budge on his terrorist-like demands.

Trump doesn’t care about the 800,000 federal workers struggling to pay their bills — in fact, guess who is using our tax dollars to keep a national park site located at his own for-profit D.C. hotel open while other national parks overflow with garbage?

Trump doesn’t care about parks or wildlife refuges. He only cares that his base sees him “get the win.”

Of course, anyone paying attention knows a border wall won’t prevent illegal immigration or stop the flow of illegal drugs coming across our borders.

Experts from the Drug Enforcement Agency have already said most drugs come through ports of entry in cities like San Diego, not through open deserts. And Trump’s claim about “criminals” pouring through our un-walled southern border is just a myth designed to stir fear in the hearts of his supporters. The fact is that crime rates are lower among immigrant groups than among native-born Americans. Even if they weren’t, a wall wouldn’t make a dent in the country’s illegal immigration, as most undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. flew here and simply overstayed their visas.

To maintain the illusion that he is “winning” and probably to distract us from the fact that federal agents opened an investigation to discover if our president is a Russian asset, Trump is holding us hostage.

The time has come for all Americans, regardless of how they voted in 2016, to demand this president be held accountable for his actions. We urge every Camas-Washougal resident, particularly those who care about the Steigerwald refuge, to call their lawmakers. Tell them to end the shutdown, reopen the government without money for the wall and start bipartisan immigration policy talks not based on fears and falsehoods.