Close our National Parks during the government shutdown to prevent additional destruction.

Close our National Parks during the government shutdown to prevent additional destruction.

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As the current government shutdown drags on, irreparable damage is occurring to our National Parks. Parks are being destroyed, people are dying, and no one's in charge. 

Counter to previous practice, most of the big-name parks have been kept open during the current federal government shutdown. But 80 percent of park service employees have been furloughed, leaving our natural treasures protected by a skeleton crew of park police and other first responders. No one is collecting entry fees, no one is guiding tourists, no one is clearing snow or plowing the roads, and no one is pumping out pit toilets, which have reportedly begun overflowing. Trash is being cleared only by a few volunteer organizations, in only a few popular locations. 

Yosemite National Park is just one example of how bad things are right now. That park is reportedly experiencing visitation levels that are maxing out the park’s capacity, even while only 50 of the usual 800-plus staff are on-site. There’s human excrement everywhere and a man died at Nevada Fall on Christmas day, reportedly after allowing his dog off-leash in an area where pets are banned. Who knows if this death could have been avoided with a full staff. What is certain is the fact that this event never would have happened if the park had been closed. 

The lack of staff isn’t just dangerous for visitors; it’s harming the parks themselves, too. While there is no categorical account of damages yet (since there’s no one to collect that data right now), overflowing sewage and indiscriminate human defecation could pollute fresh water sources for years. Wildlife is being habituated to consume human trash—something rangers go to great lengths to prevent when they’re on the clock. Fragile habitats are being destroyed. Precious artifacts are likely being vandalized and looted. Maintenance that’s being missed right now is likely to compound costs once the shutdown is over. 

To deal with the scope of the problem, the Department of the Interior, which oversees the NPS, authorized individual parks to use any remaining entry fees in their accounts to provide needed services such as trash collection. Already some have questioned that order’s legality, and it looks like it’s going to lead to hearings at the House Natural Resources Committee. Anyways, what little money there is likely won’t do much good: this isn’t an authorization to re-start the collection of admission fees, it’s the authorization to use what little money may be left over in the parks’ cash registers.

All of this damage will be incredibly costly to reverse, if possible at all. The NPS’s maintenance backlog was already $11.6 billion before the shutdown. It will likely be years before we know how much the shutdown has added to that total.

All the above has unsurprisingly led to calls to close the parks. Even the Trust for Public Land, a non-profit which advocates for public access to those lands, called for a total closure of national parks in an open letter to President Trump.

Parks are open right now because of a contingency plan put into place by the Department of the Interior last January that dictates that they remain open in case of a shutdown, operated only by staff “essential to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.” It’s worth noting that the contingency plan was available on the DOI’s website before the shutdown, but has since been removed.

But now that the contingency plan seems to have backfired, too, why aren’t we closing the parks?

Please sign this petition to support the temporary closure of our National Parks and prevent any future harm that keeping them open is currently causing. 

 The original article I used to help create this petition can be found here. This is in no way my material. I'm just using it to get the point across. 

0 have signed. Let’s get to 200!
At 200 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!