Government Shutdown impacts Joshua Tree

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Government Shutdown impacts Joshua Tree

Zachary Farley, Staff Writer

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In the wake of the longest government shutdown in United States history, many national parks are left damaged by irresponsible visitors and lack of upkeep from an understaffed ranger service.

Under typical circumstances, guests of Joshua Tree National Park tend to hold great respect for the beauty of the protected Southern California desert landscape and its namesake, the Joshua Tree. However, due to the extremely limited staff during the partial government shutdown, dumpsters and trash cans overflowed and bathrooms were filled with human waste, leading many to utilize the park itself as their personal landfill and toilet.

The illegal activity also ran rampant throughout the park, without security present to halt any destructive behavior. Graffiti has defaced rocks, and off-roading and illegal campfires have led to Joshua Trees and other vegetation to be chopped down and die. Some delinquents even brought chainsaws to the park in order to make way for improvised roads across the picturesque landscape.

While many parks were impacted by the partial shutdown and President Trump’s decision to leave the parks open to the public, Joshua Tree National Park sustained some of the most irreversible damage in the nation. Some trees are completely irreplaceable; Joshua Trees, known by their scientific name Yucca brevifolia, can live for more than 500 years after 60 years of maturation.

While much of the damage may be remedied within the next few decades, it may take hundreds of years before the state of the park before the shutdown is achieved once again. The ecosystem as a whole has not been damaged beyond repair, according to UC Riverside associate research ecologist, Cameron Barrows, but it is important to consider the effect that this extended shutdown has had.

At the time of this article’s publication, the United States is about halfway through a temporary re-opening of the government until the fifteenth of February. With the continuation of the shutdown on the horizon as a threat from the President, it may be vital to close the park again, in order to ensure that further damage will not ensue.

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