While thousands of workers remain furloughed or forced to work without pay as the government shutdown surpasses week three, the victims aren’t only human ― they’re environmental.
Facing a huge staffing shortage, Joshua Tree National Park employees are unable to police the land, which spans nearly 800,000 acres of Southern California.
Now, workers say they have noticed illegal roads and chopped down trees, the work of vandals who likely were able to wreak havoc on the area because of Washington’s ongoing dysfunction.
Last Tuesday, nonprofit news outlet National Parks Traveler uploaded an image of one of the downed trees on its website. Since then, the photo, which was taken by the National Parks Service, has gone viral, provoking a wave of backlash on social media.
The reason for the felled trees was to make way for off-roading vehicles, it was reported.
Among the reactions to the vandalism were shock and anger, some wondering why park visitors would commit such an act and shaming President Donald Trump for digging in his heels on the shutdown.
While the park service had stated on Tuesday it would close the park, it reversed the decision by Wednesday, announcing it would keep parts of the park open to the public, including all campgrounds, a few roads, a picnic area and a trail.
The park service cited “revenue generated by recreation fees” as the resource that helped the area to avoid a total closure.
Despite the periodic release of statements, the banner of NPS’s website warns it will not be consistently update during the shutdown, and that most parks will have “no National Park Service-provided visitor services, such as restrooms, trash collection, facilities, or road maintenance.”
Saturday marks the start of the fourth week of the government shutdown, making it the longest in history.