The Government Shutdown Is Turning National Parks into Cesspits

Shutdown National Parks

As the current USA federal government shutdown is mired in its second week, it is clear many of our national parks and public lands are lurching closer to a meltdown. Unlike the last major shutdown that directly affected National Parks during the Obama Administration in 2013, most National Parks remain open, yet unstaffed, today.

John Garder, senior director of budget and appropriations at the National Parks Conservation Association, told ABC News that when park rangers aren't available to give basic safety information, visitors are less likely to be prepared.

Authorities in Yosemite National Park have also closed several heavily-used campgrounds, including some in Hetch Hetchy and Mariposa Grove, that have become trashed and now have overflowing toilets. Some of the roads at Yosemite National Park have been reported to be virtual toilets with restrooms locked and sanitation services nonexistent.

The National Park Service has begun closing parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park due to "human waste issues, wildlife concerns and overall public health". "It's really a nightmare scenario".

"The whole community has come together", he said.

The closure was made for public safety reasons as plowing services at the parks are unable to be provided due to the ongoing partial government shutdown, which is approaching its second full week, according to statements from park officials on Twitter.

Even more seriously affected is the Mexican town of Boquillas, which is just across the Rio Grande from the national park and has always enjoyed a stream of visitors this time of year.

In addition, the closure of Wawona Campground, Hodgdon Meadow Campground, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Crane Flat Snow Play Area, Goat Meadow Snow Play Area, as well as all park visitor centers was announced earlier on December 30, 2018, due to "impacts from human waste and public safety concerns".

Laretig admits there are plenty of things he'd rather do than clean up the national park, but he says it's worth the effort. While many local users have offered to assist in cleaning up the park by cleaning bathrooms and removing trash, they are strongly discouraged from doing so.

Additional closures include Lost Horse Mine Road due to illegal activity and Rattlesnake Canyon in order to reduce the number of search-and-rescue events for rangers already spread thin due to the government shutdown.

Memorial by the Tidal Basin, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018, in Washington, during a partial government shutdown.

Volunteers and nonprofit groups like Friends of Joshua Tree National Park are stepping in to help but can't make up for everything that would normally be done. 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. "I would rather they close than be damaged", said Joe De Luca, a sales associate at Nomad Ventures in the town of Joshua Tree. "But we can handle it".

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