Vandals Topple Joshua Trees Amid Shutdown, Igniting Outrage
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.
During the shutdown, with Joshua Tree National Park open but no staff on duty, visitors cut down Joshua trees so they could drive into sensitive areas where vehicles are banned.— John Upton (@johnupton) January 10, 2019
"We had some pretty extensive four-wheel driving." https://t.co/EbSB4bF8hKpic.twitter.com/8kVFClVqxZ
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.
Who the FUCK goes to Joshua Tree to cut down the Joshua Trees???? https://t.co/rKSjIsLgHP— Meredith Haggerty (@manymanywords) January 10, 2019
My God. I have visited and camped in this wonderful National Park. Joshua Tree is special.— Shaun King (@shaunking) January 11, 2019
This is devastating. Those grounds, those trees, those spaces are sacred.
Shame on the Trump administration for this. https://t.co/Nz42a8jAOl
They cut down Joshua trees— Bill Prady (@billprady) January 10, 2019
In Joshua Tree National National Park.
Donald Trump is literally destroying America. https://t.co/Dpd6UmXANy
While Trump was at the southern border doing a propaganda video with federal employees working without pay, he must have missed the fact that Americans cut down two precious Joshua trees at Joshua Tree National Park. They did it to go off-road during the government shutdown. pic.twitter.com/kNQX78wCpi— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) January 11, 2019
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.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.