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National Parks & Wildlife Refuges Still Open, Zombie-Free



Not a single undead shuffler to be seen. Image courtesy DOI.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s David L. Bernhardt has a message for America’s outdoorsmen.

As the Coronavirus pandemic spreads like my ex-wife’s behind and Americans everywhere begin to chafe at the restrictions of quarantine, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s David L. Bernhardt recently released a letter containing a message for America’s outdoorsmen: America’s public lands are still public, and completely free of zombies. Now, to be certain, Bernhardt’s letter doesn’t specifically mention the zombies, but as a seasoned outdoor journalist I like to think that I’m pretty good at reading between the lines. That’s why, today, we here at Popular Outdoorsmen are sharing Bernhardt’s important message about our national parks and wildlife refuges…complete with my “deep takes.” I’ll mark my expert analysis in bold. Grab your favorite zombie-eradication tool and get ready for the real skinny on our national public lands.

Bernhardt: America’s public lands belong to the American people. In normal times, many of us regularly visit national parks, wildlife refuges, and other recreational sites spread out across more than 500 million acres of land managed by the Department of the Interior.

The nation’s public lands range from urban parks with roller-skating pavilions to iconic and popular venues for hiking, sightseeing, biking, hunting, fishing and other recreational activities.

But these are certainly not normal times.

Trace’s Deep Take: Because of the zombies

Bernhardt: President Trump has led and coordinated an “All-of-America” strategy to combat the coronavirus pandemic and slow the spread of the virus…From the advent of this pandemic, the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and other bureaus have taken measures to try to maintain basic accessibility to our lands, while adhering to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and local public health authorities.

Trace’s Deep Take: Before they became infected, most of the zombies were the kind of suburbanites who don’t understand why you would hunt for meat when you can buy it at the supermarket “without harming any animals.”  Now that they’re un-dead, the outdoors is still a mystery to them.

Bernhardt: We have implemented our pandemic plan in conducting risk assessments of our public lands and facilities and relied on the guidance of public health officials in modifying or even closing access to some of our country’s most iconic places, such as Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park and the Washington Monument.

Trace’s Deep Take: We did have to close Yellowstone, because the zombies are still taking pictures of themselves doing yoga in front of Old Faithful for Instagram “likes.” 

Bernhardt: Closure is a last but sometimes necessary resort to best protect the public during this pandemic. But by working in close coordination with public health experts and with the cooperation of the public in following social distancing, we have been able to keep most of our public lands open.

Many national monuments, memorials, battlefields and other public lands remain generally accessible, as are a majority of Bureau of Land Management’s 245 million acres and the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 90 million acres, despite most facilities and amenities being closed.

Based on the guidance of public health officials, we have made – and will continue to make – necessary changes to our operations that attempt to keep America’s public lands accessible during this pandemic, allowing the public to have a place to be socially distant, together.

Trace’s Deep Take: Did you know that zombies can’t climb? Should you run into a shuffler while exploring a national park–which you won’t, because like Bernhardt said, no zombies–simply shimmy up the nearest tree and wait for the zombie to wander off in search of toilet paper. 

Bernhardt: Our public lands, urban parks and national memorials can serve as places of solace, respite and even healing in times of challenge. These places have played that role in my own life, as I know they have for millions of other Americans.

Due to changes in our operations and offerings to the American people in only providing the most basic services, I directed all of our public lands units in March to waive entrance fees. This action is a recognition that we are not providing a full-service experience and an important means to limit contact between visitors and our employees at the entrances of our different locations.

Trace’s Deep Take: We closed the gift shops and restrooms so that the siren call of toilet paper and tchotchkes doesn’t attract the zombies, which by the way there really aren’t that many of.

Bernhardt: To be able to continue to maintain the accessibility of public lands, it is the responsibility of all of us who visit to do our part and follow CDC and local public health guidance.

It is vital that visitors social distance; if an area is crowded, visit another time; pack out what you pack in; maintain at least six feet of social distance from others; and be prepared for limited access to facilities and restrooms.

Trace’s Deep Take: Because zombies don’t move very quickly, maintaining a 6-foot distance between yourself and other (potentially infected with the Z-virus or maybe even something horrible like COVID-19) park visitors is a must. Should that dude in the North Face jacket suddenly turn ashen gray and start popping his jaw at you like a bear, that 6-foot distance will give you sufficient time to escape or engage.

Bernhardt: We must do what we can to ensure that we are helping to slow the spread of this coronavirus and not negatively impacting small and rural communities adjacent to public lands.

We are doing everything we can to keep your public lands accessible to you, and we ask that you do your part to slow the spread by being “together, apart” when visiting.

Trace’s Deep Take: Just be careful when you go swimming. Zombies don’t need to breathe, so they might be hanging out on the lake bottom.

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