With the shutdown over, for employees of our country’s National Parks, the tough clean up job is just getting started. Sadly the toll of the shutdown on our natural heritage may have been greater than feared in some locations. For example, Joshua Tree National Park suffered damage from vandalism that will be irreparable for the next 200 to 300 years, according to former park superintendent Curt Sauer. The Trump Administration kept many parks open for most or all of the shutdown, but volunteers who helped clean up trash and service bathrooms in popular parks like Joshua Tree could not keep up with routine maintenance, much less stop the vandals.
- KPIX of the Bay Area reported that on Monday, rangers were assessing the damage to boats at the Hyde Street Pier from the storms that rolled through the region when few park employees could care for the vessels.
- The National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA) reported that a hiker at Yosemite died from a fall after chasing his dog down a dangerous trail park rangers would have typically have blocked.
- Trash accumulated in wildlife-rich parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone foiling park efforts to keep bears from accessing human food that could lead now to an increase in bear attacks.
- At Death Valley National Park, there were tire tracks evident due off-road vehicles crisscrossing the delicate landscape and they will take centuries to fade.
- Staff at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington have to clear snow, which is likely to take several days before vehicle access can be restored to parts of the Park.
“The damage done to our parks will be felt for weeks, months or even years. We want to thank and acknowledge the men and women who have devoted their careers to protecting our national parks and will be working hard to fix the damage and get programs and projects back up and running,” National Parks Conservation Association President Theresa Pierno said in a statement. “We implore lawmakers to use this time to come to a long-term funding agreement and avoid another disaster like this. Federal employees, businesses, communities, and national parks deserve better.”
Why This Matters: At parks like Muir Woods in California, visitor traffic was slow when the park re-opened. it will take some time, and lots of help from volunteers, to clean up the mess the unnecessary shutdown created. Or even years for the damage to precious natural resources to heal. What a shame. The National Park Service lost an estimated $400,000 per day in entrance fees — $14 million in total during the shutdown, according to Think Progress. According to the NCPA, “This revenue loss disproportionately harms some of the largest and most popular parks in the park system, such as the Grand Canyon, Shenandoah, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion, because these parks keep 80 percent of their entrance fees on site and depend on this revenue for their operating budgets.” Not to mention the costs to nearby communities of lost tourism dollars they can never get back. SAD.
What You Can Do: Join a park clean up! Volunteer here.