How the Government Shutdown Is Affecting National Parks

At midnight on Friday Dec. 22, 2018, the Federal Government entered a partial shutdown which suspended funding for certain federal agencies. One of those agencies is the National Park Service, which according to their website, means “there will be no National Park Service-provided visitor services, such as restrooms, trash collection, facilities, or road maintenance for most parks.”

Joshua Tree National Park is one of many examples of a park feeling the effects of the shutdown. Photo: Courtesy of Alan Carillo/Unsplash

And these are some of the busiest days of the year for national parks, as there was an estimated 284,398 visitors at Joshua Tree during the second half of December in 2017.

National parks are seeing some of the worst of the effects as littering, trash overflow, un-maintained portable toilets, unlawful camping and off-roading is leaving locals concerned.

Yosemite National Park issued this visitor information: “National Park Service-provided information and orientation are not available. Entrance stations are unstaffed (but open). Visitor centers and the Yosemite Museum are closed.”

Other parks, such as Arches and Canyonlands in Utah have had to close simply because there’s no money to pay for road plowing operations amidst recent heavy snowfall.

The L.A. Times spoke with Joshua Tree local Joe De Luca who told them, “It’s a free-for-all in there. Absolutely ridiculous.” He then informed the Times of breakdowns in the campground reservation system, illegal camping practices and visitors stringing Christmas lights from delicate Joshua trees that they are supposed to leave untouched.

Amidst the disorganization, volunteers have spurred and are working tirelessly to preserve the parks. Joshua Tree rock-climber, 54-year-old Marine Corps veteran and paraplegic Rand Abbott told the Times that he went through 500 rolls of toilet paper while restocking park toilets on the first full day of the shutdown, and has been giving out trash bags to people – totaling at least 60 hours at the time of reporting on Dec. 26.

He’s also been trying to talk visitors out of illegal fires, illegal parking, littering and other forbidden activities. He told the Times, “Some comply right away, but 70-percent of the people I run into are extremely rude. Yesterday, I had my life threatened two times. It’s crazy in there right now.”

The National Park Service has begun closing parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park due to “human waste issues, wildlife concerns and overall public health.” Although, there will be no park rangers on staff to enforce the closures – so all they can do is close designated camping areas and restrooms.

h/t Los Angeles Times

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