Shutdown stinks for beloved national parks

Human waste, rubbish overwhelm some US national parks in shutdown

Campers at Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California's deserts were reporting squabbles as different families laid claims to sites, with no rangers on hand to adjudicate, said Ethan Feltges, who operates the Coyote Corner gift shop.

Human faeces, overflowing garbage and illegal off-road driving in fragile areas were beginning to overwhelm some of the iconic national parks in the USA, where a partial government shutdown left areas open to visitors but few staff on duty.

Joshua Tree, which covers more than 792,000 acres of national park from Palm Springs north to the town of Joshua Tree, will remain open during the shutdown.

Handwritten signs have also been posted asking visitors not to litter, as there are now no trash services. According to Yager, another huge problem is visitors not cleaning up after their dogs and people leaving human waste in various parts of the park, leaving it to volunteers to clean up the toilet paper left behind.

The partial shutdown of the federal government-now on its 12th day-started on December 22 after Trump refused to back down from his demands for Congress to green-light $5 billion for a border wall along the U.S. -Mexico border. Park visitors are permitted to hike as far as they want.

All other guests are being asked to enter the park via Highway 140 at El Portal Road.

One-and-a-half-weeks in, the government shutdown is already taking a toll on some of country's most iconic national parks.

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"People tend to dump diapers or dump their fast food things, right now on the Spur I've noticed most of it", said Steve Ellis.

With a quarter of the federal government employee workforce beginning 2019 out of work or working without a paycheck, agencies from the National Park Service to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Smithsonian museums are feeling the pinch. "Keys View Road is also closed, effective immediately", park officials said in a statement.

Lamfrom said he's encouraging people to stay away from the parks during the shutdown but added that it's wrong to blame visitors for damage when there's little or no enforcement of rules. However, under the Trump administration, the gates have remained open to guests, which means free access but few park employees to help keep the park clean and help keep visitors safe.

The superintendent at Joshua Tree, David Smith, thanked the volunteers on Monday but said they have to close some of the campgrounds because the toilets, which don't have plumbing or a septic system, are too full.

"The whole community has come together", Mr Feltges said.

"I chose to clean up this one section, because that's what Americans will do", said Snake, a 64-year-old member of the indigenous Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin. Some parks, like Mount Rainier National Park, are now largely inaccessible.

The National Archives is closed as a partial government shutdown stretches into its third week.

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