In a truly fitting end to 2018, the Associated Press reported on Monday that in the second week of President Donald Trump’s government shutdown, the National Parks are all going to shit, literally.
“It’s a free-for-all,” Dakota Snider, 24, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley, said by telephone Monday, as Yosemite National Park officials announced closings of some minimally supervised campgrounds and public areas within the park that are overwhelmed.
“It’s so heartbreaking. There is more trash and human waste and disregard for the rules then I’ve seen in my four years living here,” Snider said.
The issue here is unique to this shutdown. In perhaps an attempt to mollify one of the most noticeable affects of a shutdown—federal resources being, well, shut down—the Trump administration decided to keep National Parks mostly open through the shutdown (they were closed during the 2013 shutdown). The problem is there’s no one to take care of them, as hundreds of park rangers are furloughed. That means people are entering the parks, leaving trash everywhere, overflowing the public toilets and fighting over campsites while the few beleaguered federal employees that are still on duty try to keep everything together.
Unlike shutdowns in some previous administrations, the Trump administration was leaving parks open to visitors despite the staff furloughs, said John Garder, senior budget director of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association.
“We’re afraid that we’re going to start seeing significant damage to the natural resources in parks and potentially to historic and other cultural artifacts,” Garder said. “We’re concerned there’ll be impacts to visitors’ safety.”
“It’s really a nightmare scenario,” Garder said.
Park rangers aren’t paid a lot—the average is under $70k a year for federal employees—and it must be tragic for them to watch the work they try to do all year basically get undone as tourists do horrid shit like stringing Christmas lights on Joshua trees and littering all over the Yosemite Valley.
Some visitors have strung Christmas lights in the twisting Joshua trees, many of which are hundreds of years old, the Los Angeles Times reported.
But some are seizing on the shortage of park staffers to off-road illegally and otherwise damage the park, as well as relieving themselves in the open, a park statement said. Joshua Tree said it would begin closing some campgrounds for all but day use.
National parks are a clear public good. But if the government can’t adequately care for them, it’s wildly irresponsible for Trump’s Interior Department to expect a skeleton crew of workers to keep out the detrimental effects of shitty humans while bureaucrats in Washington argue about spending.