Washington, D.C., October 10, 2013—In the wake of National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service crackdowns on private businesses and closures of open-air memorials and overviews during the government shutdown, the Competitive Enterprise Institute on Wednesday filed a series of Freedom of Information Act requests with the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service seeking public records on who made such decisions and why.
“The Obama administration, which is in charge of implementing the shutdown of federal agencies, has gone too far in shutting down private businesses and mostly ungated, unguarded public spaces,” said Hans Bader, senior attorney and counsel for special projects at CEI. “The detrimental impact on the men and women who run private businesses on federal land has been unconscionable. Hundreds of campgrounds, stores, hotels and restaurants were affected, along with the Claude Moore Colonial Farm in Northern Virginia, which received no federal funds but was shut down, anyway.”
“Some of these closure decisions seem to have been driven not by legal obligations, but by gamesmanship—specifically, how to inflict so much pain on the public that future shutdowns become unthinkable,” said Sam Kazman, general counsel for CEI.
The requests seek communications concerning the George Washington Parkway, open-air memorials and scenic overlooks, and privately run businesses on national park land. Since the current shutdown began, the National Park Service has closed or barricaded numerous such sites, many of which were kept open by the Clinton administration during the 1995 shutdown. The list includes: the Lincoln Memorial, the National World War II Memorial, scenic overviews attached to the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Northern Virginia, roads to Mt. Rushmore, the parking lots and roundabouts at George Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon, which is privately owned and operated, and certain privately operated businesses on federal land.
Agency officials who respond to FOIA requests may be furloughed at present, but CEI expects a response within 20 working days from the time federal workers return.