Government shutdown will cause lasting damage to national parks

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Amanda Osborn, a spokeswoman for the General Services Administration, which owns the building and leases it to the Trump Organization, said in an e-mail that the shutdown exemption for the comparatively little-known clock tower was "unrelated to the facility's tenant" - the Trump business.

Tom Udall (D-N.M.) appealed to President Trump to end the shutdown and "let park staff get back to work and get public lands out of harm's way".

At Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California, volunteers have hauled away garbage, cleaned restrooms and restocked them with toilet paper, said John Lauretig, executive director of Friends of Joshua Tree.

The park has also had to close down some roads due to snowfall because it does not have the staff to sand or plow them. But, as restrooms and other services have become overloaded, more and more campgrounds are closing at parks across California.

"We're open!" one National Park Service ranger declared around lunchtime, pushing an elevator button for a lone visitor entering the site through a side entrance to ride to the top of the 315-foot-high, almost 120-year-old clock tower. A park spokesman told the Associated Press that a statement was not issued sooner and the investigation was taking longer than usual because of the government shutdown.

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Unlike the last major shutdown that directly affected National Parks during the Obama Administration in 2013, most National Parks remain open, yet unstaffed, today. Off-road vehicles are being taken into restricted, environmentally sensitive areas. Cars have been spotted driving off-road, hikers and dogs have wandered from the trails, people have made illegal fires, and toilets have been locked during one of the busiest times of the year at the desert park. "The president isn't exclusively responsible". President Donald Trump's demand for money for a border wall with Mexico has been the sticking point in passing funding bills for several government departments.

Park visitors are advised to use extreme caution should they enter Rocky, since there is no one to provide guidance or assistance and emergency services are limited.

"Just leave it open", Jarvis said.

"It's extremely demoralizing for the park service folks who want to be doing their job and caring for the park the way they do", Hafen said.

As a result, the president will have to decide whether to renominate Vela in the new Congress or to submit a new nominee.

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