Jan 1, 2019

National parks overflow with trash amid government shutdown

Yosemite National Park in California. Photo: Finch Hartley/Getty Images

Human waste, overflowing garbage, illegal off-roading and other bad behavior in fragile areas is beginning to overwhelm some of the West's iconic national parks, AP's Ellen Knickmeyer and Jocelyn Gecker report:

Driving the news: The partial government shutdown has left the areas open to visitors but with little staff on duty. "It's a free-for-all," Dakota Snider, 24, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley, said, as Yosemite National Park officials announced closings of some minimally supervised campgrounds and public areas.

Why it matters: Unlike shutdowns in some previous administrations, the Trump administration was leaving parks open to visitors.

  • "It's really a nightmare scenario," said John Garder, senior budget director of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association. "We’re afraid that we’re going to start seeing significant damage to the natural resources in parks and potentially to historic and other cultural artifacts."

Spotted: "In Sequoia, home to [California's] ancient giant sequoias, General Highway was closed because overflowing trash bins were spreading litter and posed a threat to wildlife."

  • "[T]he icy, jammed roadway was seeing up to three-hour delays."
  • "Campers at Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California's deserts were reporting squabbles as different families laid claims to sites, with no rangers on hand to adjudicate."
  • "Some visitors have strung Christmas lights in the twisting Joshua trees, many of which are hundreds of years old."
  • "At Yosemite, ... crowds of visitors were driving into the park to take advantage of free admission."
  • "Visitors were allowing their dogs to run off-leash in an area rich with bears and other wildlife, and scattering bags of garbage along the roads."

"In Yellowstone National Park, private companies have picked up some of the maintenance normally done by federal workers."

  • "The contractors that operate park tours by snowmobile, buses and vans are grooming trails, hauling trash and replacing toilet paper at pit toilets and restrooms along their routes."

Go deeper

Trump says he will campaign against Lisa Murkowski after her support for Mattis

Trump with Barr and Meadows outside St. John's Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. on June 1. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Thursday that he would endorse "any candidate" with a pulse who runs against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Driving the news: Murkowski said on Thursday that she supported former defense secretary James Mattis' condemnation of Trump over his response to protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing. She described Mattis' statement as "true, honest, necessary and overdue," Politico's Andrew Desiderio reports.

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Over the course of just a few hours, President Trump was rebuffed by the Secretary of Defense over his call for troops in the streets and accused by James Mattis, his former Pentagon chief, of trampling the Constitution for political gain.

Why it matters: Current and former leaders of the U.S. military are drawing a line over Trump's demand for a militarized response to the protests and unrest that have swept the country over the killing of George Floyd by police.

New York Times says Tom Cotton op-ed did not meet standards

Photo: Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A New York Times spokesperson said in a statement Thursday that the paper will be changing its editorial board processes after a Wednesday op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), which called for President Trump to "send in the troops" in order to quell violent protests, failed to meet its standards.

Why it matters: The shift comes after Times employees began a coordinated movement on social media on Wednesday and Thursday that argued that publishing the op-ed put black staff in danger. Cotton wrote that Trump should invoke the Insurrection Act in order to deploy the U.S. military against rioters that have overwhelmed police forces in cities across the country.