How the government shutdown affected the national parks

May 22, 2019

          Summer is fast approaching, and with it the height of the tourist season. Some of the major vacation spots of the U.S are National Parks. These parks are preserved areas of land that are of natural and cultural significance to America. The purpose for these parks are for enjoyment, education and inspiration for future generations.

         The Park Service tries their best to protect the environment and the wildlife within their parks while teaching the importance of taking care of nature and our planet.

         Sophomore Emma Olney, who is actively involved in Envirothon and Community Conservation Corps, said,“National Parks are essential for preserving untouched ecosystems in our country. Within the National Parks of the United States, there are individual ecosystems with complex biodiversities, since they have largely been unaffected by humans. This biodiversity, aside from being a point of interest from the public, is valuable to ecologists because it provides a fallback for a surplus of unique species of animals and plants, as well as macroinvertebrates and invertebrates.”

         With such a principle mission, the Park Service is key to maintaining a healthy environment.

         Unfortunately this year, the National Parks took a hit during the government shutdown, which started December 22, 2018 and lasted nearly 35 days. The staff was furloughed without pay, leaving the parks opened but without staff.

         This led to severe damage that will have a lasting impact on the parks. Some of these issues include overflowing trash cans, clogged and overflowing toilets, poaching, theft and damage to off-limits areas.

         Artifacts from Civil War battlefield parks have been stolen, and there is even concern that the impact of human waste will have on water quality within the parks. It is also evident that visitors have cut down trees in Joshua Tree, damaged hot pools in Yellowstone, and fragile desert landscape at Death Valley National Park.

         “If I was in charge of the National Parks, I would have done everything in my ability to create an exclusion of the National Parks from the government shutdown. For example, I would have tried to keep government park rangers and workers in their positions in order to keep the parks clean, well-maintained and open to the public,” said Olney.

         This is a major setback for the parks, especially with a rising increase in tourism as summer nears.

         In January, the Department of the Interior, which is held responsible for federal lands, announced that they would be dipping into funds collected by entrance fees to help restore the parks, though the National Park Conservation Association believes that this will not be enough to pay for the 11 billion dollars worth of damage.

         Currently, the Park Service is doing their best to recover from the destruction before the height of the tourist season.

         “To those visiting National Parks this summer, be sure to respect what you have the opportunity to experience! For example, be sure to leave nothing but footprints; however, be sure not to hike off of a marked trail as creating a new trail can harm the ecosystem. In addition, do not bring in or take wood or branches or other plant life from the National Parks, as this process could result in the spread of invasive species,” said Olney.

         The future of the Parks depend on how upcoming visitors treat them.

         Mrs. Dianna Guise, the gifted teacher at CYHS, said, “The Parks are important to take care of because future generations should be able to enjoy nature like past generations had, and we must be very cautious of how we treat the environment.”

         The National Parks are critical to protecting American wildlife, ecosystems and culture. They educate visitors of nature, history and climate change. And if not properly taken care of they could no longer exist.

         “It would be sad to see all the scenic beauties, and national resources go because of the damages done. I feel as though now people can be so disconnected to nature, they forget about the planet they live on,” said Guise.

 

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