The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Joshua Tree National Park Will Stay Open After All
"By immediately utilizing revenue generated by recreation fees, National Park Service officials have been able to avert a temporary closure of Joshua Tree National Park that had been previously scheduled for January 10," the park said in a statement.
The park had originally said it would close temporarily in order to repair damage done to the unique desert ecosystem by unsupervised visitors who had created new roads and destroyed the protected Joshua trees. Instead, the park remained open and even restored access to campgrounds that had been closed early in the month when toilets reached capacity.
The park was able to avoid closing because of a controversial Interior Department decision to allow parks to use visitor fees to address the maintenance and safety issues that have arisen as the parks remained open to the public while a majority of their staff has been furloughed.
"National Park Service officials have determined that by using Federal Land and Recreation Enhancement funds to immediately bring back park maintenance crews to address sanitation issues, the park will be able to maintain some visitor services, including reopening the campgrounds. The park will also bring on additional staff to ensure the protection of park resources and mitigate some of the damage that has occurred during the lapse of appropriations," Joshua Tree said.
Some park advocates are concerned that tapping into visitor fees, which the Federal Land Recreation Enhancement Act earmarks for special projects like habitat restoration or new programs to enhance the visitor experience, would worsen the budget shortfall faced by many national parks. Using that money to run the parks during the shutdown could potentially impact summer hiring programs or long term projects and deep maintenance work already planned out, National Parks Traveler explained.
"Some of these projects have involved years of organization and planning, so the administration's political pressure for superintendents to use those funds is throwing all of that work in the trash," National Parks Conservation Association Director of Budget and Appropriations John Garder said.It is unclear how long parks might need to run on these fees. The shutdown will become the longest in U.S. government history if the government does not reopen by this coming Saturday, The New York Times reported. This seems unlikely, as attempts by Senate Republicans to broker a deal to reopen the government while continuing the discussion of funding for President Donald Trump's desired border wall fell apart when Trump's team indicated he would not agree. The President is considering diverting money earmarked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers following last year's hurricanes and wildfires to build the wall, The New York Times also reported Thursday.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Alisa Opar
For Chinook salmon, the urge to return home and spawn isn't just strong — it's imperative. And for the first time in more than 65 years, at least 23 fish that migrated as juveniles from California's San Joaquin River and into the Pacific Ocean have heeded that call and returned as adults during the annual spring run.
By Jessica Corbett
Dozens of students, parents, teachers and professionals joined a Friday protest organized by Extinction Rebellion that temporarily stalled morning rush-hour traffic in London's southeasten borough of Lewisham to push politicians to more boldly address dangerous air pollution across the city.
Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Moment / Getty Images
By Bridget Shirvell
On a farm in upstate New York, a cheese brand is turning millions of pounds of food scraps into electricity needed to power its on-site businesses. Founded by eight families, each with their own dairy farms, Craigs Creamery doesn't just produce various types of cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss and Muenster cheeses, sold in chunks, slices, shreds and snack bars; they're also committed to becoming a zero-waste operation.
By Jessica A. Knoblauch
Summers in the Midwest are great for outdoor activities like growing your garden or cooling off in one of the area's many lakes and streams. But some waters aren't as clean as they should be.
That's in part because coal companies have long buried toxic waste known as coal ash near many of the Midwest's iconic waterways, including Lake Michigan. Though coal ash dumps can leak harmful chemicals like arsenic and cadmium into nearby waters, regulators have done little to address these toxic sites. As a result, the Midwest is now littered with coal ash dumps, with Illinois containing the most leaking sites in the country.
By Ketura Persellin
You've likely heard that eating meat and poultry isn't good for your health or the planet. Recent news from Washington may make meat even less palatable: Pork inspections may be taken over by the industry itself, if a Trump administration proposal goes into effect, putting tests for deadly pathogens into the hands of the industry.