Quantcast

Park Rangers Return to Work to Assess ‘Irreparable’ Damage as Government Shutdown Ends (for Now)

Politics
A volunteer's car full of trash collected at Joshua Tree National Park in California during the shutdown. NPCA Photos

The partial government shutdown that has endangered nature and visitors at understaffed national parks finally came to an end Friday, when President Donald Trump agreed to temporarily reopen the government despite not receiving any money for his proposed border wall.

The deal will put some 800,000 federal workers, who have now missed two paychecks, back to work while the president and Congress try and reach a deal over funding for the wall that would put 93 species at risk from extinction. But the fix, which ends the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, is only temporary.


"If we don't get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15 again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency," Trump said Friday, as CNN reported. "We will have great security."

The agreement does mean, however, that park rangers and other staff can begin to assess the damage done during the shutdown, as many parks remained open to the public but understaffed. In shutdowns under previous administrations, the parks have typically closed entirely. Park staff will also move to reopen services that were shuttered.

"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 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."

Here is what the return to normal looks like at parks around the country.

1. Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

The Visitor Center for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in Minnesota reopened Saturday and saw 180 guests in its first hour, Superintendent John Anfinson told The Associated Press. He said his employees had "big smiles on their faces" when he visited. Park Ranger Sharon Stiteler captured the mood when she tweeted a video of the center's gate opening under the word, "Weeeee!"

2. Joshua Tree National Park

Dozens of supporters of Joshua Tree National Park saw in its full reopening with a rally Saturday to call attention to the havoc wreaked in the park during the shutdown, when several Joshua Trees were cut down and rocks damaged. The rally was originally planned to call for an end to the shutdown, but went forward anyway despite Friday's announcement.

"What's happened to our park in the last 34 days is irreparable for the next 200 to 300 years," former Joshua Tree National Park Superintendent Curt Sauer told The Palm Springs Desert Sun.

3. Yellowstone National Park

Visitor Centers at Yellowstone National Park reopened Sunday, and a majority of staff are returning Monday to resume operations, The Associated Press reported.

"For example, employees will begin to process the backlog of applications for special use permits, film permits, commercial use authorizations, and research permits. By midday Monday, the public will also be able to obtain permits for the non-commercially-guided snowmobile access program," the park website explained.

4. Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, on the other hand, will not be able to reopen until Feb. 4. This is because of rock falls that returning staff must now clear.

"During the shutdown, several large rock falls occurred on the main park road between mile markers two and three, causing damage to the road and guardrail," Mesa Verde spokeswoman Cristy Brown said, as National Parks Traveler reported. "Repairing the road damage and replacing the guardrail, along with substantial snow removal, are necessary to ensure visitor and staff safety prior to the park reopening."

5. Mount Rainier National Park

Staff at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington have a different blockage to clear: snow. While access to the park's Longmire section is fully restored as of Sunday, it is likely to take several days to restore vehicle access from Longmire to the popular Paradise area.

"Significant targeted snow removal is required on all roads, pull-outs and parking areas between Longmire and Paradise. Staff are working now to restore safe access to this popular winter recreation area as quickly as possible. A projected opening date will be established as soon as possible," the park said in a release.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

JPM / Getty Images

Gluten is the collective name for a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley and rye.

Read More Show Less
Denali national park. Domen Jakus / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

By Stephanie Gagnon

Happy National Parks Week! This year, between April 20 and 28, escape to the beautiful national parks — either in person or in your imagination — and celebrate the amazing wildlife that calls these spaces home.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
fstop123 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

At EcoWatch, our team knows that changing personal habits and taking actions that contribute to a better planet is an ongoing journey. Earth Day, happening on April 22, is a great reminder for all of us to learn more about the environmental costs of our behaviors like food waste or fast fashion.

To offer readers some inspiration this Earth Day, our team rounded up their top picks for films to watch. So, sit back and take in one of these documentary films this Earth Day. Maybe it will spark a small change you can make in your own life.

Read More Show Less
Sesame, three months old, at Seal Rescue Irleand. Screenshot / Seal Rescue Ireland Instagram

On Friday, Seal Rescue Ireland released Sesame the seal into the ocean after five months of rehabilitation at the Seal Rescue Ireland facility. Watch the release on EcoWatch's Facebook.

Read More Show Less
Beer packs of Guinness will now come in a cardboard box. Diageo

By Jordan Davidson

Guinness is joining the fight against single use plastic. The brewer has seen enough hapless turtles and marine life suffering from the scourge of plastic.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Maskot / Getty Images

People of all ages are spending more of their day looking at their phones, computers and television screens, but parents now have another reason for limiting how much screen time their children get — it could lead to behavioral problems.

Read More Show Less

Rapper and comedian Lil Dicky released a 7-minute climate change awareness song and video today, ahead of Earth Day on Monday, with proceeds going to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Eoin Higgins

The New York City Council passed the world's "largest single carbon reduction effort that any city, anywhere, has ever put forward" on Thursday afternoon, marking a major milestone in the fight against the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less