'Occupy our National Parks' demonstrations rally against government shutdown

by: Kayla Lemmon Updated:

According to the Occupy our National Parks social media sites, the movement is to rally against the federal government’s decision to shut down nature-- something they feel should be free.

SPRINGDALE, Utah - Since the partial government shutdown, national parks and monuments have been blocked off and barricaded—and that often means a block to the income of those who make a living on those trailheads.

>>> Click here to see what services are affected by the government shutdown.

>>> Click here to see the government shutdown in photos.

According to some Utah tour guides, the shutdown hit them hard. The local economy there is based hugely on tourism, especially within the state's five national parks, and the shutdown turned those parks into ghost towns.

For Nick Smith and James Milligan, both Utah recreational tour guides with separate companies, they decided to do something as soon as their own paychecks were impacted.

"Sometimes you just have to be brave," Smith said.

Smith and Milligan formed the Occupy our National Parks group, a movement that started small—with about 20 people—and grew to nearly 2,000 members, some of whom live in the Northwest.

>>> Click here to see photos of the Occupy our National Parks group in action.

According to the Occupy our National Parks social media sites, the movement is to rally against the federal government's decision to shut down nature -- something they feel should be free.

To do this, they've shown up at national parks, such as Zion's National Park in Utah, and have hopped fences and squeezed around barricades to spend hours cleaning up trails and maintaining the parks.

"This isn't about rangers or local authorities or anyone trying to do their jobs," Smith said. "This is about our federal government. This is about showing that when it comes to enjoying our lands, we don't need to be nannied by them."

Park rangers and local authorities stood by as protesters from Occupy our National Parks jumped park fences on Oct. 12.

Occupy our National Parks has reached states from the corners of the west to Pennsylvania. On the Occupy National Parks Facebook page, one member from the Seattle area said, "Get Mount Rainier open, Nick. Quick!"

Since the first protest the group has had, the federal government has allowed the opening up of parks in Utah, but only if the state agrees to pay for it. But according to Smith, that isn't enough.

"Our group is trying to push for everyone in every state to reclaim what is theirs," Smith said. "And I think we're moving in the right direction. We just have to choose to be brave and remind everyone that these are our lands."

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