A Joshua Tree at Joshua Tree National Park pulled down by vandals in January 2019, during the U.S. partial government shutdown. Photo: Daniel Schneider / Twitter

By Jeanna Bryner
10 January 2019

(Live Science) – Joshua trees are beautiful, but humans can be pretty awful.

That's what park rangers learned during the first week or so of the partial government shutdown.

Joshua Tree National Park is about the size of Delaware, but only eight law-enforcement rangers were tasked with protecting the 1,238 square mile (3,207 square kilometers) wonderland during the shutdown.

The result? Visitors did not play by the rules, cutting illegal roads, chopping down the park's most famous occupants — the Joshua trees — and damaging federal property, according to the nonprofit National Parks Traveler.

"There are about a dozen instances of extensive vehicle traffic off roads and in some cases into wilderness," said the park's superintendent David Smith, as reported by National Parks Traveler. "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." [All Yours: 10 Least Visited National Parks]

Smith added, "Joshua trees were actually cut down in order to make new roads."

Due to the vandalism and sanitation issues, Smith had scheduled a park closure beginning today (Jan. 10). However, instead the park has allocated funds from recreation fees, averting a temporary closure, he said. […]

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. [more]

Visitors Chainsaw Iconic Joshua Trees in National Park During Gov't Shutdown


Vandals cut down this Joshua tree in Joshua Tree National Park in January 2019, during the partial government shutdown. Photo: NPS

By Allyson Chiu
11 January 2019

(The Washington Post) – In most depictions, Joshua trees tower above the earth. Feathery-looking limbs topped with spiky green leaves twist skyward, completing the gangly succulent’s striking appearance.

But now, viral pictures of these protected trees show a vastly different scene unfolding at Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California.

The trees in the photos have been felled and are lying on the dusty ground — and Park Service officials say people, not Mother Nature, are to blame.

Shared widely on social media Thursday, the photos have sparked outrage over the plight of national parks that remain open amid a partial government shutdown, leaving them understaffed and vulnerable to the antics of unruly visitors. Parks nationwide have struggled to deal with a variety of issues ranging from rampant littering and overflowing public restrooms to the vandalism of habitats.

“I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or Republican, what’s going on at Joshua Tree National Park is a travesty to this nation,” one person tweeted.

During the course of the shutdown, which is in its third week, conditions at Joshua Tree have only worsened, prompting Park Service officials to schedule a temporary closure on Thursday morning to “allow park staff to address sanitation, safety, and resource protection issues in the park that have arisen during the lapse in appropriations.” [more]

‘A travesty to this nation’: People are destroying Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park

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