Thanks to the government shutdown perpetrated by Donald Trump and the Republican leadership, most parks staff are off duty until further notice, but the parks they normally serve are still open.
Unfortunately, while the cat's away, the mice are making a mess. Garbage. Human feces. Disturbed natural resources. Deaths. Across the country, national parks are being overwhelmed by visitors who aren't cleaning up after themselves, while an army of volunteers has stepped up to haul garbage, maintain roads, provide assistance, and even rent portable toilets to address bathroom closures.
But volunteers alone can't and shouldn't have to replace the vital services of park rangers, who are stuck on unpaid furlough unable to help and wondering how they'll pay the rent.
The situation is so dire that the National Parks Service is using entrance fees to pay for staffing at impacted parks so they can remain open, a move some say is illegal.
Government shutdowns often come with hidden consequences and this is one of them: The environmental harm caused by not staffing parks with people to maintain facilities and intervene when guests behave inappropriately could be significant. It takes a single jaunt off-trail to disturb delicate plant and animal life, for example.
We know the Trump administration hates the environment. We also know that our national parks are a treasure, spanning 52 million acres and seeing over 330 million visitors every year. Letting them get turned into open toilets and giant trashcans is a disgrace.
Tell your senators: It's time to take up the House bill to get the government up and running so our national parks personnel can get back to doing the work they love.
And tell them no wall, no deal, because the wall proposal is a human rights atrocity, an environmental disaster waiting to happen, and an affront to all that America should stand for.
Photo: Grand Canyon NPS