Gov shutdown freezes vital research and training programs

Fire fighting trainees. Photo: AZ Dept. of Forestry and Fire Management

As of the morning, the federal government shutdown has entered into its 24th day, making it the longest shutdown in US history. While 800,000 federal workers are caught in the crosshairs of the shutdown (and most of them missed a paycheck last Friday), countless amounts of scientists and other workers have had their research work frozen as well. For example, as PBS reported, the Office of Wildland Fire oversees five federal agencies — including the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management — involved with fighting wildfires on federal lands and also providing critical training and education for firefighters has been impacted. Employees who want to respond to wildfire outbreaks must take a Fire Refresher course each year to be eligible. Some workers, including hotshot crews, aerial firefighters and managers in charge of coordinating fire responses, are also required to undergo additional training and won’t be able to do so as long as the shutdown continues.

Additionally, federally funded research has had to grind to a halt. Various federal agencies award grants to scientists to conduct research and as Quartz explained, the most recent federal budget, for the fiscal year of 2018 (which began October 2017), allocated $176.8 billion in total for research and development. Assuming a similar amount would have been awarded from Dec. 21, 2018 to Jan. 11, 2019, that’s $103 million that should have been awarded to research groups across the US that hasn’t been administered. More specifically, High Country News reported about a climate research project in Southern Utah’s Moad Desert that’s used to assess climate changes in the West and has not been able to continue. As HCN explained that this research is critical as In parts of the West, where the economy is tied directly to the integrity of federal lands, using science to understand how these landscapes work and respond to change is essential to the economic well-being of the region.

Why This Matters: Research and innovation is part of what makes America great and it shouldn’t have to suffer because of a political war between President Trump and Congressional Democrats. Programs that train first responders to save lives cannot afford to lay dormant as fire season in the Western states becomes more erratic each year. Putting Americans at risk on the part of President Trump isn’t a way to stick it to the Democrats, it’s a reckless act that will have lasting consequences.

Up Next

Colorado Sees Worst Wildfire in History

Colorado Sees Worst Wildfire in History

by Natasha Lasky and Miro Korenha A wave of deadly forest fires has erupted in Colorado, despite the fact winter storms have begun hitting the state. Warming temperatures across the West Coast have lengthened fire season into November, with disastrous consequences. Three mega-fires have erupted near Denver — the largest (Cameron Peak Fire) and second-largest […]

Continue Reading 474 words
New Study Suggests Healing Targeted Ecosystems Can Restore Earth’s Climate

New Study Suggests Healing Targeted Ecosystems Can Restore Earth’s Climate

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Contributing Writer  A study published yesterday in the journal Nature suggests that revitalizing ecosystems in a global, holistic way could be an immensely effective way to heal the Earth’s climate. In particular, forests, wetlands, and grasslands would benefit most from restoration — protecting just 30% of these priority areas could save […]

Continue Reading 480 words
Wildfire on CO Army Base Shows Military’s Vulnerability to Climate Change

Wildfire on CO Army Base Shows Military’s Vulnerability to Climate Change

On Sunday, a wildfire in Colorado jumped a highway and spread on to Fort Carson and for a time burned out of control on lands used for military training.  The Wild Horse Fire is small but was only 10% contained yesterday morning.

Why This Matters:  As President Trump bleeds money from the military to build the border wall (which fortunately a federal court just put on hold), climate change — a real emergency for the military — goes unaddressed.

Continue Reading 481 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.