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5 Iconic National Parks Face 'Nightmare Scenario' Following Gov't Shutdown
One-and-a-half-weeks in, the government shutdown is already taking a toll on some of country's most iconic national parks. The parks have remained largely open to the public despite the fact that most of the rangers and other support staff who maintain them are among the hundreds of thousands of government workers now on furlough, and the unsupervised access has led to a buildup of trash and a break-down in visitor behavior, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.
During many previous shutdowns, the parks had closed their gates, but the Trump administration chose to keep them open.
"We're afraid that we're going to start seeing significant damage to the natural resources in parks and potentially to historic and other cultural artifacts," Senior Budget Director of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association John Garder told The Associated Press. "We're concerned there'll be impacts to visitors' safety. It's really a nightmare scenario," Garder said.
The shutdown plan does give park superintendents the power to close down certain sites or areas if garbage or other problems pose too great a danger to humans or wildlife, National Park Service spokesman Jeremy Barnum told The Associated Press by email. And some parks have already decided to do just that.
Here is a breakdown of how the shutdown has already impacted some beloved parks.
Yosemite National Park had to close two campgrounds and the popular Mariposa Grove of redwoods because of a buildup of human waste along the side of road, The Los Angeles Times reported Monday. With restrooms shuttered, visitors had been relieving themselves off of Wawona Road, which is also California Highway 41, posing a health risk for other visitors.
"It's a free-for-all," 24-year-old Yosemite Valley resident Dakota Snider told The Associated Press of conditions in the park. "It's so heartbreaking. There is more trash and human waste and disregard for the rules than I've seen in my four years living here."
2. Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave and Colorado deserts of Southern California has been forced to close all campgrounds starting Wednesday, The San Bernardino Sun reported. Conditions at the park have deteriorated as pit toilets overflow, visitors let their dogs off their leashes and drive off road, and people set up camp in protected areas or sites reserved by others.
The situation has been improved somewhat by volunteers from Friends of Joshua Tree and local businesses, who have raised $5,000 to take out trash and clean toilets. But the work is getting to be too much for the volunteers, Cliffhanger Guides co-owner Sabra Purdy told The Sun.
"It is not sustainable to have volunteers keep doing this," Purdy, who took out three pick-up-truck loads of trash from a campground Monday, said. "We can't afford to wipe all the bottoms who visit Joshua Tree."
3. Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, twin parks in California's Sierra Nevada mountains, had to close a variety of sites as of 6 p.m. on Monday because of a trash overflow, USA Today reported Tuesday.
"The parks are being forced to take this action for health and safety concerns," the parks' public affairs officer Sintia Kawasaki-Yee said in a press release reported by USA Today. "Trash receptacles are overflowing, resulting in litter dispersal throughout the area and a threat to wildlife."
4. Rocky Mountain
"Park staff are beginning to close restroom facilities and trash receptacles at many park locations due to human waste issues, wildlife concerns and overall public health," the park said in a statement.
The park has also had to close down some roads due to snowfall because it does not have the staff to sand or plow them.
Access to Yellowstone National Park has also been threatened by snowfall. Normally, during the winter, vehicle access is blocked off and visitors access the park via snowmobile tours over pre-groomed trails. With the park service unable to maintain these trails, private companies are splitting the cost of keeping them clear, as well as replacing toilet paper and emptying trash, so they can continue to run tours. See Yellowstone Alpen Guides General Manager Travis Watt told The Associated Press that the tour companies could continue to do this throughout the winter if they have to.
"It's definitely not our preference—the park service does a good job doing their thing and we hate to see them out of work," Watt told The Associated Press. "But it's something we can handle."
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Tropical forests globally are being lost at a rate of 61,000 square miles a year. And despite conservation efforts, the global rate of loss is accelerating. In 2016 it reached a 15-year high, with 114,000 square miles cleared.
At the same time, many countries are pledging to restore large swaths of forests. The Bonn Challenge, a global initiative launched in 2011, calls for national commitments to restore 580,000 square miles of the world's deforested and degraded land by 2020. In 2014 the New York Declaration on Forests increased this goal to 1.35 million square miles, an area about twice the size of Alaska, by 2030.
By Cheryl Leahy
Do you think almond milk comes from a cow named Almond? Or that almonds lactate? The dairy industry thinks you do, and that's what it's telling the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
For years, the dairy industry has been flexing its lobbying muscle, pressuring states and the federal government to restrict plant-based companies from using terms like "milk" on their labels, citing consumer confusion.
By Jeremy Deaton
A driver planning to make the trek from Denver to Salt Lake City can look forward to an eight-hour trip across some of the most beautiful parts of the country, long stretches with nary a town in sight. The fastest route would take her along I-80 through southern Wyoming. For 300 miles between Laramie and Evanston, she would see, according to a rough estimate, no fewer than 40 gas stations where she could fuel up her car. But if she were driving an electric vehicle, she would see just four charging stations where she could recharge her battery.
Fire Continues at Texas Petrochemical Plant as Company's History of Violations Gets Renewed Scrutiny
By Andrea Germanos
A petrochemical plant near Houston continued to burn for a second day on Monday, raising questions about the quality and safety of the air.
The Deer Park facility is owned by Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC), which said the fire broke out at roughly 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Seven tanks are involved, the company said, and they contain naptha, xylene, "gas blend stocks" and "base oil."
"It's going to have to burn out at the tank," Ray Russell, communications officer for Channel Industries Mutual Aid, which is aiding the response effort, said at a news conference. It could take "probably two days" for that to happen, he added.
The hillsides dyed orange with poppies may look like something out of a dream, but for the Southern California town of Lake Elsinore, that dream quickly turned into a nightmare.
The town of 66,000 people was inundated with around 50,000 tourists coming to snap pictures of the golden poppies growing in Walker Canyon as part of a superbloom of wildfires caused by an unusually wet winter, BBC News reported. The visitors trampled flowers and caused hours of traffic, The Guardian reported.
A controversial pesticide test that would have resulted in the deaths of 36 beagles has been stopped, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the company behind the test announced Monday. The announcement comes less than a week after HSUS made the test public when it released the results of an investigation into animal testing at Charles River Laboratories in Michigan.
"We have immediately ended the study that was the subject of attention last week and will make every effort to rehome the animals that were part of the study," Corteva Agriscience, the agriculture division of DowDupont, said in a statement announcing its decision.