How the Government Shutdown Is Affecting National Parks

Human waste, rubbish overwhelm some US national parks in shutdown

Human faeces, overflowing garbage and illegal off-road driving in fragile areas were beginning to overwhelm some of the iconic national parks in the U.S., where a partial government shutdown left areas open to visitors but few staff on duty.

Towns like these across the US are financially dependent on businesses, from equipment rental services to, of course, locally-owned hotels and restaurants, most of which largely cater to national park visitors.

Yosemite National Park, too, has closed some of its campgrounds and public areas after being inundated with garbage and human poop.

Officials at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado said Monday they were closing restrooms and locking up trash bins.

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.

Kristen Brengel, vice president of government affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association, told CNN that the absence of supervision seems to have created a sense of "lawlessness" among the parks' visitors. Joshua Tree rock-climber, 54-year-old Marine Corps veteran and paraplegic Rand Abbott told the Times that he went through 500 rolls of toilet paper while restocking park toilets on the first full day of the shutdown, and has been giving out trash bags to people - totaling at least 60 hours at the time of reporting on December 26. People were also spotted driving snowmobiles dangerously close to the Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone National Park.

"There [are] other parks that have just a gold mine of artifacts and resources that are basically unprotected right now, and I would hate to see those pieces of our history and heritage disappear during this shutdown".

In Utah, only one park remains open.

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The Los Angeles Times reports the National Parks Service is warning of a threat to health at Yosemite National Park.

You can come and visit, but please, leave no trace behind. "We're concerned there'll be impacts to visitors' safety". "It's really a nightmare scenario". A checkpoint is set up between 9am-6pm and people will only be allowed to pass through if they have a reservation for lodging or camping in the park.

Some parks are closed completely while others remain accessible to the public - even with no employees on hand to assist visitors or clean up after them.

Escalating problems have prompted some parks, like Yosemite, to partially or fully close.

Joshua Tree is expected to begin closing some campgrounds for all but day use.

"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.

"People are walking off trails, bringing their dogs", he said.

Rattlesnake Canyon will close to reduce the number of potential search-and-rescue events for rangers already spread thin because of the shutdown, the park service said. "But we can handle it".

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