National parks face overflowing trash, toilets in second week of shutdown

As government shutdown continues human waste on Yosemite's roadsides prompt park closures

Human waste, rubbish overwhelm some US national parks in shutdown

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.

Many travelers have changed their plans, and the results could mean an economic hit for the small towns adjacent to many of these national parks - including Mariposa, CA (population 2,200 and a gateway to Yosemite); Beatty, NV (population 1,000 and home to some of the hotels closest to Death Valley National Park); and Twentynine Palms, CA (population 25,000, on the north edge of Joshua Tree).

And these are some of the busiest days of the year for national parks, as there was an estimated 284,398 visitors at Joshua Tree during the second half of December in 2017.

Visitors to Joshua Tree National Park may want to re-think their plans this week as the park will close down all of its campgrounds on January 2 due to the government shutdown. A person illegally shot dead a pregnant elk at Zion National Park in Utah, which authorities say was a poacher taking advantage of the limited park security.

The shutdown not only hurts the parks but also surrounding communities that rely on an estimated $18 million a day from tourism, said Kristen Brengel, vice president of government affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association. This time around, however, the U.S. Department of the Interior opted to keep the parks open to visitors.

He's also been trying to talk visitors out of illegal fires, illegal parking, littering and other forbidden activities.

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Trash collection has also been temporarily nixed - even though the park itself remains open. Faeces and urine along the roads according to the administration on the closure of Camping and rest places, reports the Los Angeles Times.

"Rangers are of course very demoralized right now, because they want to be in the parks serving visitors and protecting them, but they are coming into this situation where they're already challenged".

"It's really a big deal for Joshua Tree", she said of the campground closings.

Dozens of volunteers have stepped in to help clean bathrooms and get rid of trash, including John Lauretig, a retired law enforcement ranger at the park and executive director of the nonprofit Friends of Joshua Tree National 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, " Snider said.

They had unleashed their dogs and let then run freely in an area rich with bears and other wildlife, and were scattering bags of garbage along the roads, Mr Snider said. The contractors that operate park tours by snowmobile, buses and vans are grooming trails, hauling trash and replacing toilet paper at pit toilets and restrooms along their routes.

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