Quantcast

5 Iconic National Parks Face 'Nightmare Scenario' Following Gov't Shutdown

Daniel Viñé Garcia / Moment / Getty Images

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.

1. Yosemite

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

In Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park, staff began closing toilets and locking trash bins because of unspecified health and safety concerns, CBS4 Denver reported Tuesday.

"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.

5. Yellowstone

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."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A drilling rig in a Wyoming natural gas field. William Campbell / Corbis via Getty Images

A U.S. federal judge temporarily blocked oil and gas drilling on 300,000 acres of federal leases in Wyoming Tuesday, arguing that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) "did not sufficiently consider climate change" when auctioning off the land, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
Mizina / iStock / Getty Images

By Ryan Raman, MS, RD

Oats are widely regarded as one of the healthiest grains you can eat, as they're packed with many important vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
JPMorgan Chase building in New York City. Ben Sutherland / CC BY 2.0

By Sharon Kelly

A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Sriram Madhusoodanan of Corporate Accountability speaking on conflict of interest demand of the People's Demands at a defining action launching the Demands at COP24. Corporate Accountability

By Patti Lynn

2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."

Read More Show Less
The head of England's Environment Agency has urged people to stop watering their lawns as a climate-induced water shortage looms. Pexels

England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Jessica Corbett

A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.

Read More Show Less
A flock of parrots in Telegraph Hill, San Francisco. ~dgies / Flickr

By Madison Dapcevich

Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.

Read More Show Less
Fire burns in the North Santiam State Recreational Area on March 19. Oregon Department of Forestry

An early-season wildfire near Lyons, Oregon burned 60 acres and forced dozens of homes to evacuate Tuesday evening, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) said, as KTVZ reported.

The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.

Read More Show Less