Though the government shutdown may have ended last Friday, Joshua Tree National Park will be feeling the ruinous effects of it for hundreds of years.
Throughout the duration of the shutdown, which lasted a record-long 35 days, national parks greatly suffered: human waste piled up, lands were littered with trash, and some campgrounds and other public areas even closed to visitors, as the parks weren’t adequately staffed to stay open. It wasn’t until after Joshua Tree closed on January 2, though, that humans became excessively reckless, during which they off-roaded, graffittied rocks, started campfires in illegal areas, and cut down protected trees.
“What’s happened to our park in the last 34 days is irreparable for the next 200 to 300 years,” former Joshua Tree National Park Superintendent Curt Sauer said at Shutdown the Shutdown for Joshua Tree National Park, a rally this past Saturday near the California park, where more than 100 people amassed to decry the environmental and economic impacts that the shutdown had on Joshua Tree.
Per the Palm Springs Desert Sun, John Lauretig, the executive director of the Friends of Joshua Tree, also took the stage to condemn the government for refusing to close national parks when it doesn’t have adequate funds to pay employees and protect the natural habitat. During the shutdown, Lauretig was just one of the local volunteers who handled the park’s basic maintenance.
“The local community is fed up with our parks being held hostage and the fact that it’s open and partially staffed is not good for the park, it’s not good for the public and it’s not good for the local community here,” he said. “If the government doesn’t fund or staff the parks appropriately, then they should just close the parks to protect the parks and protect the people.”