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    People visit Joshua Tree National Park in the southern California desert Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.

    Citing Damage by Visitors, Understaffed Joshua Tree National Park Shuts Down

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    As of Thursday morning, Joshua Tree National Park in southern California will be temporarily closed due to damage caused by people during the partial US government shutdown.

    National parks across the US have not received the necessary federal funding to patrol their territory and pay their employees. With very few park rangers working to prevent off-road driving by visitors, some of the Joshua Tree National Park's namesake trees have been destroyed. 

    "Park officials are identifying the additional staff and resources needed to address immediate maintenance and sanitation issues and will utilize funds from the park fees to address those issues per the recently updated National Park Service contingency plan during a lapse in appropriations," the park said in a statement on its website.

    "While the vast majority of those who visit Joshua Tree National Park do so in a responsible manner, there have been incidents of new roads being created by motorists and the destruction of Joshua trees in recent days that have precipitated the closure," the statement added.

    However, park officials plan to "restore accessibility to the park in addition to limited basic services in the coming days," according to the park's Twitter account.

    During the past few days, several people have volunteered to help clean the park, which spans nearly 800,000 acres east of Los Angeles, near San Bernardino and Palm Springs, and draws around 4 million visitors every year.

    Earlier this week, Yosemite National Park (in California's Sierra Nevada mountains) announced on Twitter that the John Muir and Mist Trails to Vernal and Nevada Falls, as well as Tuolumne and Merced Groves, would be closed beginning January 5 "for safety and human waste reasons."

    ​Utah's Bryce Canyon National Park also tweeted December 22 that it will not monitor or update its social media during the federal government shutdown.

    "We are happy to report, some areas of Bryce Canyon National Park remain accessible. However, access may change without notice," the park added in its tweet.

    ​Multiple federal United States government departments and agencies have been closed, after Congress refused to throw its support behind US President Donald Trump's $5.6 billion demand for a border wall with Mexico. 

    According to a Tuesday CNBC report, around 420,000 workers are working without compensation, while another 380,000 are simply staying at home as a result of the shutdown, which extended into Day 18 Tuesday, according to a CNBC report.

    On Sunday, Trump said his administration was "very strongly" considering declaring a national emergency if Democrats in Congress refuse to fork over money for the wall.

    "We're looking at a national emergency, because we have a national emergency," Trump told reporters outside the White House. "We have a crisis at the border of drugs, of human beings being trafficked all over the world. They're coming through. And we have an absolute crisis, and of criminals and gang members coming through. It is national security. It's a national emergency.


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