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Guess Which State Decided to Defy the Feds and Keep Some of Its Parks Open Despite Request to Close Them (It's Probably Not One You'd Think Of)


"We're not going to shut down one of our most popular parks..."

Entrance to Devil's Lake State Park in Wisconsin. (Image source:

While the WWII Memorial being barricaded (and then not) has been the poster child of the federal government shutdown, a state is taking action as well, refusing to close the gates to its own state parks.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources did not close several state parks, although the National Park Service apparently ordered them to do so. Among those in the NPS's closure request were Kettle Moraine, Devil's Lake, Interstate state parks and part of the Horicon Marsh owned by the state, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Why did the DNR refuse? Because these parks didn't receive federal funds themselves.

Paul Holton, the DNR's state park, forest, trail and recreation public affairs manager, explained to TheBlaze that the DNR doesn't consider keeping its parks open an act of defiance. He said a "handful" of state employees are paid with federal funds through a grant and are not currently coming to work during the shutdown.

"We're not going to shut down one of our most popular parks," because a small percentage of employees couldn't come, Holton said of Devil's Lake specifically.

devil's lake state park. Entrance to Devil's Lake State Park in Wisconsin. (Image source:  Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources/Flickr)

As for whether the directive from NPS explicitly asked the DNR to shut the parks' gates or if it was simply saying these employees would not be allowed to work is unclear. Holton referred us to another DNR employee, who has not yet returned our call, for more specific operational questions.

The Journal Sentinel reported the DNR also removed barricades at a boat launch, citing a 1961 agreement with the feds.

“Fall is one of the best times of the year to get out and enjoy the 1.5 million acres of state owned land in Wisconsin,” Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp said in a statement. “We welcome visitors to our state parks and forests...climb one of our observation towers and take in the beautiful fall colors, bike or hike our state trails, and hunt or fish on our many state wildlife and fisheries areas.”

Federally funded state parks in Wisconsin, like the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the Chequamegon and Nicolet National Forests, are closed during the shutdown.

Gov. Scott Walker shared his thoughts on the political blame game, saying "I think blame can go around for everybody," according to the Journal Sentinel.

Walker said many problems facing the federal government would be better addressed if Congress operated a little more like Wisconsin.

"The best way to resolve it? Look at what we did in Wisconsin. We had a $3.6 billion deficit; we now have more than a half-a-billion-dollar surplus. Every Wednesday — I did it this morning, before I came over here — I sit down with the legislative leaders and, you know, we figure out a way to solve the problems that face our state. We have an effective line of communication, and we get things done.

"I think not just in Wisconsin but in states across the country there's a lot of governors and lawmakers in both parties who wish the folks in Washington in both parties would act more like the states and less like our nation's capital," Walker said, according to the Journal Sentinel.

Thursday marked the third day of the federal government shutdown.



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