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UPDATED: Should the U.S. Close Its National Parks During the Shutdown?

by Countable | Updated on 1.9.19

UPDATE - January 9, 2019:

  • California's Joshua Tree National Park will be temporarily closed as of Thursday morning after visitors caused damage during the partial government shutdown.
  • "While the vast majority of those who visit Joshua Tree National Park do so in a responsible manner, there have been incidents of new roads being created by motorists and the destruction of Joshua trees in recent days that have precipitated the closure," the park said in a statement.
  • Sections of Yosemite National Park, and much of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks are closed as well.

What’s the story?

  • In a departure from previous government shutdowns, the Trump administration decided to leave national parks open though the Interior Department halted a majority of its operations.
  • This has resulted in widespread reports of degradation in parks, including visitors scattering garbage on roads, a build-up of human waste, illegal off-roading, increases in artifact theft at Civil War battlefields, and people letting their dogs run off-leash in areas rich with bears.
  • Former Park Service Chief Jonathan Jarvis said that keeping national parks open during the shutdown is a “terrible mistake.”
“Leaving the parks open without these essential staff is equivalent to leaving the Smithsonian museums open without any staff to protect the priceless artifacts.”

Tourists left to run amok, putting people, animals, and natural features at risk”

  • In his op-ed for The Guardian, Jarvis explained that national parks operate much like mini-cities, “with the National Park Service employees providing all the same services: trash collection, police and fire response, water and sewer systems, electrical power, bus service and parking management.”
  • Leaving the parks open while the employees are furloughed, he wrote, “is a violation of the stewardship mandate, motivated only by politics. While the majority of the public will be respectful, there will always be a few who take advantage of the opportunity to do lasting damage.”
  • This was the impetus behind shuttering the campgrounds at California’s Joshua Tree National Park last Wednesday.
"The park is being forced to take this action for health and safety concerns as vault toilets reach capacity," NPS wrote in a statement. "In addition to human waste in public areas, driving off road and other infractions that damage the resource are becoming a problem."

NPS plans to expand operations

  • In an unprecedented move, the NPS announced it plans to dip into entrance fee funds to pay for expanded operations during the partial government shutdown.
"NPS will begin to use these funds to clean up trash that has built up at numerous parks, clean and maintain restrooms, bring additional law enforcement rangers into parks to patrol accessible areas, and to restore accessibility to areas that would typically be accessible this time of year," the agency wrote in a press release on Sunday.

What do you think?

Should the U.S. close its national parks during the shutdown? Is keeping them open a “terrible mistake”? Take action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman

(Photo Credit: @GlacierHub via Twitter)

Countable

Written by Countable

Leave a comment
(440)
  • John
    Voted No
    01/07/2019
    ···

    What we should do is close the White House and lock the front door with Trump on the outside of it. This man is an idiot and the order of magnitude. He is dragging this country down with his Totally transparent lies about the border about Terrorists at the border about anything he can make up at the border. The man is an absolute lunatic. Let’s dump this idiot before it’s too late.

    Like (83)
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  • burrkitty
    Voted Yes
    01/07/2019
    ···

    People are trashing them. Shut them down if we aren’t going to put the staff in there. We are supposed to be protecting them.

    Like (72)
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  • Jackie
    01/07/2019
    ···

    Trump has no respect for our national parks. I think he just wants them trashed so he can privatize them.

    Like (35)
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  • John
    Voted Maybe
    01/07/2019
    ···

    If parks can be operated at full capacity from fee receipts, do so. Otherwise shut them down. We know how much maintenance has been deferred. We don’t need damage inflicted by mindless people that has to be repaired.

    Like (31)
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  • Susan
    Voted Yes
    01/07/2019
    ···

    Parks must be protected! Shut them down!

    Like (27)
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  • James
    Voted Maybe
    01/07/2019
    ···

    If you had asked me during the last government shutdown, I would say no. But based on what is being seen now, it seems necessary in order to protect these lands and parks.

    Like (22)
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  • Ronald
    Voted No
    01/07/2019
    ···

    Access to Publicly owned land is for Public Use. Congress Must start Passing Budgets. Stop Short Term Stop Gap Spending. The results should happen to remind Congress of Their Duty.

    Like (10)
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  • ConservativeGuy
    01/08/2019
    ···

    Probably.

    Like (4)
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  • Ian
    Voted Yes
    01/08/2019
    ···

    So long as our Parks don't have paid stewards to manage and tend to them then they should stay closed. The amount of garbage and human waste piling up in them is an (inter)national embarassment and they should be spared the damage and disgrace.

    Like (15)
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  • Dona
    Voted Yes
    01/07/2019
    ···

    Close the parks for the sake of the parks. These spaces are irreplaceable. Sorry for the vacationers but they may go in and do damage that will takes years to repair to fragile environments and wildlife.

    Like (12)
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  • Chris
    Voted Yes
    01/07/2019
    ···

    National Parks are not pawns in a chess game. They are national treasures, natural areas and historic sites that are owned by the people. They are chronically underfunded as it is; to force them to be open at partial staffing levels puts them in danger of vandalism and degradation of natural features. Keep them protected : keep them closed.

    Like (9)
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  • lynnleemitchell
    Voted Yes
    01/08/2019
    ···

    By allowing the national parks to remain open the government is proving that once again that the state of the Earth is of no concern to them. The trash that is not being picked up will remain in the parks for years to come. The redeeming quality of this nation is our parks, the places Americans and visitors can go to to see how beautiful our country is. The very least the government could do would be shutting down completely and not just partially or maybe forget about that wall and clean the parks.

    Like (9)
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  • David
    Voted Yes
    01/07/2019
    ···

    People have already died because of unsupervised and inappropriate use of the Parks. Significant and possibly irreparable damage has already been done. These treasures have been set aside as needing protection and preservation.

    Like (7)
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  • JTJ
    Voted Maybe
    01/09/2019
    ···

    We should shut down the parks until they are self sustaining and don’t need our tax dollars.

    Like (7)
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  • Mavis
    Voted Maybe
    01/08/2019
    ···

    Should we be surprised? Maybe it IS true that who we elect is a reflection of what WE are. We the people are in need of a serious change in attitude and should demand a higher standard of ourselves AND our elected officials!!!

    Like (7)
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  • Jennifer
    Voted Yes
    01/08/2019
    ···

    While I agree with our President Theodore Roosevelt's famous declaration, "For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People," which adorns the North entrance of our nation's first National Park, I am wholly against our National Park units being open during the government shutdown. My family and I backpack and camp our National Parks for our vacations, and have made many wonderful memories enjoying the beauty, solace, and inspiration they provide. Our National Parks are wilderness, cultural, and historical treasures. We would not let the public run amok through the galleries of our museums, so why are we letting them do so in our pristine parks? All the units in our National Park Service System should be closed for their protection until there is sufficient staff to oversee them. PLEASE, CLOSE OUR NATIONAL PARKS!

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  • Shawn
    Voted Yes
    01/08/2019
    ···

    I want the public to have access to these lands year round but part of the reason to have this special status of National Park is that it is meant to protect and preserve the features within its boundaries. Without that protection, the parks are open to various forms of abuse and degradation as we’ve already seen. They should be closed during a shutdown, but moreover this shutdown should end and Trump should drop his insanely stupid demand for billions of wasted tax dollars for the BEGINNINGS of a wall which studies have shown will cost at least 7 times more to complete.

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  • Starla
    Voted No
    01/07/2019
    ···

    The workers at Park should NOT be punished for political promises made by self serving officials. The working poor. Many of the federal workers are military veterans who are already struggling.

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  • Bmarkis
    Voted Yes
    01/07/2019
    ···

    Trash is piling up and we are causing damage to the parks; potentially irreparable. If we are going to refuse to service them under the partial shutdown then they need to be closed to the public since it is behaving badly.

    Like (4)
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  • Ken
    Voted Yes
    01/08/2019
    ···

    Our national parks need to be a safe and healthy environment for visitors. Tax payers provide the money that it takes to operate these parks yet I am fairly certain that there will be no reimbursements to us for this shut down. What part of this scenario is fair to us, the people that provide legislators their income. Congress needs to get off their stuck in the mud attitude and work this out.

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