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Joshua Tree National Park 'May Take 300 Years to Recover' From Shutdown
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=50055"><span class="small">Ashley Boucher, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Thursday, 31 January 2019 09:22

Boucher writes: "The former superintendent of Joshua Tree national park has said it could take hundreds of years to recover from damage caused by visitors during the longest-ever government shutdown."

Joshua Tree National Park. (photo: iStock)
Joshua Tree National Park. (photo: iStock)

Joshua Tree National Park 'May Take 300 Years to Recover' From Shutdown

By Ashley Boucher, Guardian UK

31 January 19

National park saw ‘irreparable’ damage including vandalism, ruined trails and trees cut down, says former superintendent

he former superintendent of Joshua Tree national park has said it could take hundreds of years to recover from damage caused by visitors during the longest-ever government shutdown.

“What’s happened to our park in the last 34 days is irreparable for the next 200 to 300 years,” Curt Sauer said at a rally over the weekend, according to a report from the Desert Sun. Sauer retired in 2010 after running the park for seven years.

The park reopened Monday after the record 35-day shutdown, and park workers returned to a state of chaos, including damaged trees, graffiti and ruined trails. The reduced ranger supervision during the shutdown saw increased vandalism at the park, causing officials to announce on 8 January that Joshua Tree would temporarily close. It was announced a day later that officials were able to use recreation fee revenue to avoid the closure.

“While the vast majority of those who visit Joshua Tree 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,” said park spokesman George Land in the news release.

The government shutdown left hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed, forcing many national parks to operate without rangers. Volunteers hauled out trash and cleaned toilets – but in a park covering 1,235 square miles, it wasn’t enough to stop damage from visitors to the park who did not heed warnings to take extra care.

The decision to keep national parks open with reduced staff was met with criticism. Stories of destruction that came out of Joshua Tree during the shutdown were devastating.

“There are about a dozen instances of extensive vehicle traffic off roads and in some cases into wilderness,” David Smith, the current Joshua Tree national park superintendent, told National Parks Traveler after announcing the need to close. “We have two new roads that were created inside the park. We had destruction of government property with the cutting of chains and locks for people to access campgrounds. We’ve never seen this level of out-of-bounds camping. Everyday use area was occupied every evening.”

“Joshua trees were actually cut down in order to make new roads,” he added.

The local community is “fed up” with the fact that the park was left open during the shutdown, said John Lauretig, executive director of the nonprofit Friends of Joshua Tree, at Saturday’s “Shutdown the Shutdown for Joshua Tree National Park” rally. The group organized volunteers who helped with the cleanup.

“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,” Lauretig said.

The National Park service did not immediately respond a request for additional comment on Monday.

If the government ends up shutting down again, Lauretig said the park should be closed completely to prevent further damage, adding, “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.”

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+13 # Wise woman 2019-01-31 10:34
This is the work of what Hilary infamously called the "deplorables." And guess who they voted for? Their deplorable leader made it possible for them to wreak havoc on one of mother natures pristine places of extraordinary beauty. If course it would be better to close all the parks down if the moron in chief decides to pull another shutdown. These kind of subhumans must be prevented from venting their psycho behavior on our magnificent lands. And it would be good if the damage they've done disallows them from voting for the next 300 years - haha!!
+10 # BetaTheta 2019-01-31 11:53
This is the logical outcome of the Sagebrush Rebel mentality that public lands are a restriction of freedom of property rights.
0 # Glen 2019-01-31 15:28
This was to be expected. Citizens of this country can be highly destructive, no matter the political affiliation. I've seen port-a-potties tossed into rivers for the hell of it, fences cut down for firewood, fires started in state and national forests simply because locals are pissed off at the government, and shit left everywhere on top of condoms, in parking areas in parks or river access. Cutting down the Joshuas for new roads and destructive 4 wheelers is not a surprise.

People can be unbelievably obnoxious. I live in a rural river area and have worked in parks in California and elsewhere. Folks tore down restrooms and more, just because they could and can. Don't be surprised if you find a sink or toilet torn out the next time you are in a park restroom.
+1 # elizabethblock 2019-01-31 21:54
Shame on Trump and the Trumpistas for the shutdown. Shame on American citizens for this destruction.
+1 # laborequalswealth 2019-02-01 06:58
Why do I doubt that there are few other countries where this kind of destruction would have happened? Americans seem to be Number One in fouling their own nest.

What a commentary on what a moral sinkhole this country has become.