by Michael McGrady
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are suspending entrance fees as a way to promote social distancing amid the coronavirus outbreak, following in the footsteps of the National Park Service.
The U.S. Department of Interior, which oversees the agencies, said it decided to suspend entrance fees to public lands until further notice in a move to support social distancing amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“Our vast public lands that are overseen by the Department offer special outdoor experiences to recreate, embrace nature and implement some social distancing,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said.
The NPS made their announcement on Wednesday, while USFWS and BLM announced Thursday they would waive fees. NPS manages 419 federal properties while BLM oversees 245 million acres of federal land and USFWS manages almost 500 wildlife refuges.
Interior and the directors of the three agencies continue to urge visitors to take advantage of federal lands while maintaining a safe distance between yourself and other groups, following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.
“The health of our visitors is our number one priority,” USFWS Director Aurelia Skipwith said. “When CDC guidance is followed, a national wildlife refuge can be the perfect antidote to cabin fever and a boon to our mental wellbeing during this unprecedented time.”
The move comes as several states have ordered restaurants, bars and other private businesses to temporarily close, while New York ordered complete shutdowns of all nonessential businesses and California has been put on lockdown. In Colorado, the governor ordered all ski areas to close.
Unemployment claims have skyrocketed 33 percent since the outbreak began.
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Michael McGrady is a contributor to The Center Square.