Utah national parks affected by shutdown will get federal help 'within days'

Clay Curtis
January 9, 2019

Members of a Muslim youth group collected trash and cleaned up national parks around the US on Saturday and Sunday in an effort to assuage the damage done amid the government shutdown.

Under a memorandum signed Saturday by the Interior Department's acting secretary, David Bernhardt, and obtained by The Washington Post, park managers will be permitted to bring on additional staff to clean restrooms, haul trash, patrol the parks, and open areas that have been shut during the more than two-week budget impasse.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that by seeking to keep parks open through the shutdown, the Trump administration had broken with the Clinton and Obama administrations, which cut off access to parks when funding elapsed.

National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith said the "extraordinary step" was necessary to clean up garbage - such as the trash seen here at Ocean Beach in San Francisco - that has been piling up at "numerous" sites.

"Relaxing those internal controls, as the Park Service appears to be doing, is a positive step toward better addressing the agency's most pressing maintenance and operational challenges", Regan said.

Visitors are no longer allowed to enter Mount Rainier National Park through the main entrance until the government shutdown ends.

The statement added that the Park Service would not fully open parks, and smaller sites would stay closed. "For those national parks that don't collect fees, they will now be in the position of competing for the same inadequate pot of money to protect their resources and visitors". But the incoming chair of the subcommittee overseeing Interior appropriations, Minnesota Democrat Betty McCollum, said that dipping into user fees is "not acceptable" in this situation, and likely violates the law. "I want to see our parks open, but I want to see our entire government open the right way, following the law".

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"Either way, this president is only happy as long as the American people pay for his every whim whenever it suits him, " Grijalva said.

"The burdens being born by local communities should be addressed by park service personnel within days", Bernhardt said in a memo, "particularly at the bigger parks such as Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks".

Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, the largest national organization for Muslim youths, were spotted cleaning up litter across park areas, including the Everglades National Park in Florida and Joshua Tree National Park in California.

The Park Service is part of the Department of the Interior, one of the agencies affected by the prolonged partial government shutdown that began in late December. The paper said "hundreds" of NPS staff could return to work as a result. According to official estimates, as many as 16,000 of the Park Service's 20,000-person winter workforce are furloughed. "Draining accounts dry is not the answer".

"We could not sit idly by as our national parks collected trash", Abdullah said.

Statement on Protecting National Parks while Providing the American People Continued Access during the Lapse of AppropriationsP.

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