World

7 people have died in national parks since the shutdown began

7 people have died in national parks since the shutdown began

In an unprecedented move, the National Park Service has chose to dip into entrance fee funds to pay for expanded operations during a government shutdown that has furloughed many of its workers.

Though the partial USA government shutdown has left some national parks scrambling to maintain their lands and facilities, hundreds of civilians are stepping up to care for the public lands of their own accord. The agency, however, said it will still not be able to fully open parks and that many will remain closed.

P. Daniel Smith, deputy director of the service, said in a statement Sunday that the money would be used to bring in staff to maintain restrooms, clean up trash and patrol the parks.

In a press release, the National Park Service said it had "explored a number of options to address the maintenance and sanitation issues that have arisen at a number of highly visited parks".

Unlike most previous government shutdowns, the Trump administration has gone to great lengths to keep parks open despite concerns from groups that it leaves national treasures vulnerable to vandalism and creates a risky environment for visitors.

In a press release earlier Sunday, the National Park Service said the funds would not be able to fully open parks, and that numerous smaller sites around the country will remain closed.

Though, this new order is already being criticized. 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.

Some are calling for parks to close for the duration of the standoff.




"This will not open up the parks in any safe, effective manner for tourists to have a safe and enjoyable experience", she said. Either way, this president is only happy as long as the American people pay for his every whim whenever it suits him.

Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva, the new chairman of House Natural Resources Committee, said his committee will probe whether the administration's action is "legally justified".

In Tennessee, a father-daughter duo has been tackling the litter left behind on the trails of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

If the government shutdown continues, Bhatti told CNN the group will be looking for more parks to clean and more ways to help areas impacted by the shutdown.

A Park Service official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid, said that the Interior Department's solicitor had authorized the move in an opinion, but did not provide the document.

The revised contingency plan, obtained and reported by The Washington Post, did not specify how many agency employees would return to work, nor which parks would receive the additional staffing funds.

Thousands of park service workers have been placed on furlough as the government works out a deal to reopen the government. "At least 80 percent of the money stays in the park where it is collected, and the other 20 percent is used to benefit parks that do not collect fees". Visitor fees were set aside before the shutdown for future park projects and paying off a deferred maintenance backlog.


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