Experts Are Assessing Damage To Joshua Tree (1/29/2019)

Story by Woodall's Campground Management

Joshua Tree National Park is a special place for many Californians, with a landscape unlike almost any other on earth, according to Los Angeles Magazine.

During the government shutdown, when U.S. National Park Service staffers were unable to provide their usual management of the 1,200-square-mile park and the people passing through it, so much havoc was wrought on that landscape that it could take centuries to fully recover.

“What’s happened to our park in the last 34 days is irreparable for the next 200 to 300 years,” Curt Sauer, a former superintendent of the park, said during a rally over the weekend. As the Desert Sun reports, the event was organized to raise awareness of the issues National Parks faced during the shutdown.

During the shutdown, furloughed park staff were instructed to leave the park’s gates open and unattended. Initially some facilities and campgrounds were also left open, but eventually had to be closed, after irresponsible behavior and public safety risks were reported.

By the time the shutdown finally ended, a National Park Service survey of the damage found Joshua Trees chopped down and left on the ground, vandalism to rocks, the cutting open of chains and locks used to close the campgrounds, and the discovery that people coming into the park had driven off-road so extensively that two new vehicle pathways were cut through previously pristine desert areas.

Joshua Tree’s ecosystem is a delicate one–and it has already shown signs of stress from the surge of visitors to the park in recent years. In 2017, nearly 3 million people came through the park; only five years before, in 2012, it was just 1.4 million. As park staff return to work, they’re faced with the challenge of protecting the environment for future generations to explore.

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