States are out of money to keep national parks safe during shutdown

We are now 11 days into this partial government shutdown, and our beloved national parks are really feeling the hurt.

These shutdowns are not without consequences. Key scientists had holiday plans canceled and are being forced to work without pay. The Violence Against Women Act was allowed to expire. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency ran out of money. Many communities’ disaster relief funds have been held up in political limbo. And while President Trump refuses to back down on his demand for border wall funding, holiday tourists are wreaking havoc on some of our national parks.

National Park Service staff are among the roughly 800,000 federal workers affected by the shutdown. Even though rangers are on furlough, tourists are still visiting these protected areas– with potentially disastrous consequences.

The problems go beyond a lack of toilet paper in the park potties. In Texas’ Big Bend National Park, trash is piling up, which conservationists fear could attract bears and lead to them become permanently habituated to human food. At Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, dozens of cars were seen entering the park despite the lack of park staffing. In California’s Joshua Tree National Park, the Los Angeles Times reports that tourists have strung Christmas lights on the park’s fragile namesake trees.

A few park-heavy states, like Arizona and Utah, have dealt with the shutdown by trying to keep their parks fully staffed with state funds paid directly to the federal government. But today, Utah’s state funding to keep Arches, Canyonlands, and Zion National Parks running with minimal staffing ran out. So too a charity group’s staffing of visitor centers at Great Smoky Mountains. Those funds are now gone as well.



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