As the Democrats stonewall President Trump over immigration and the partial government shutdown continues, some people who don’t respect the rules decided to take advantage of the lack of government employees at Joshua Tree National Park in California and cut down Joshua trees to make new roads.
As National Parks Traveler reports, the park, which measures 1,235 square miles and has about 20 different entrances, was left largely unguarded because only eight law enforcement rangers have been working. Live Science explains, “The cut-down trees, however, are irreplaceable, as they take some 60 years to mature and live for more than 500 years. The tree, called Yucca brevifolia, often grows alongside its relative the Mojave yucca, Yucca schidigera — both are part of the Agave family.”
The National Park Service adds, “Spring rains may bring clusters of white-green flowers on long stalks at branch tips. Like all desert blooms, Joshua trees depend on just the perfect conditions: well-timed rains, and for the Joshua tree, a crisp winter freeze. Researchers believe that freezing temperatures may damage the growing end of a branch and stimulate flowering, followed by branching. You may notice some Joshua trees grow like straight stalks; these trees have never bloomed—which is why they are branchless!”
Joshua Tree National Park superintendent David Smith said that the park would close indefinitely on Thursday, asserting, “The park will be closed until I can ensure that resources inside the park are protected. We’re hoping that the shutdown will be over soon."
Smith noted that normally there are many more employees at the park: "We have 120 employees in the park, plus 30 associates that work for Great Basin Institute, the majority of whom are in the park every day. Those are the folks that are in the campgrounds and in the day-use areas and doing science. So you’ve got 100 sets of eyes in the park every day with folks contacting visitors."
Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has instructed the National Park Service to use fee revenues from the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act to hire additional personnel.
Smith commented on the damage done by people who roamed through the park: "There are about a dozen instances of extensive vehicle traffic off roads and in some cases into wilderness. We have two new roads that were created inside the park. We had destruction of government property with the cutting of chains and locks for people to access campgrounds. We’ve never seen this level of out-of-bounds camping. Every day use area was occupied every evening. Joshua trees were actually cut down in order to make new roads.”
He added, “It’s short spurts for people to get around gates for the most part. They would just go out into the country, and then once 20 or 30 cars would go over it you would essentially have a new road created in pristine desert. … We had some pretty extensive four-wheel driving around the entire area to access probably our most significant tree in the park. We have this hybrid live oak tree that is deciduous. It is one of our kind of iconic trees inside the park. People were driving to it and camping under it. Through the virgin desert to get to this location. That would probably be a quarter-mile or so around the rock formation that is there.”
In addition, Smith stated that graffiti had been found.