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How The Government Shutdown Is Affecting National Parks


The partial government shutdown is now on its 12th day. And it's starting to take a toll on some of America's national parks. While many of the parks have stayed open, they are doing so without full park service staff.


Right. So volunteers and businesses that depend on the parks are passing out garbage bags and asking visitors to follow the rules - stay on the trails; don't start illegal campfires. Still, it is not easy. Annie Semmelroth co-owns a company called Stone Adventures. It's a rock climbing guide business in Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California.

ANNIE SEMMELROTH: Every year, in the high-season weeks, we hear stories about fistfights over camp campgrounds, people who park illegally. On Instagram, we see people who are climbing in Joshua trees or hanging hammocks. All of that activity is illegal.

KING: She says this year is no different but...

SEMMELROTH: The park is not staffed as it usually is. And so the local community is taking it upon themselves to try to step in to do something.

MARTIN: Semmelroth is also worried about the desert ecosystem.

SEMMELROTH: It's very fragile to human impact. So one example is the topsoil. It's very easy to destroy that if it gets turned over by, say, tire wheels or people running and skidding or throwing it. That topsoil dies. And it can take years for it to grow back.

MARTIN: Joshua Tree now says campgrounds in the park will close today, citing health and safety concerns. Meanwhile, at Yellowstone National Park, the climate is very different.

TRAVIS WATT: It's white. Everything's covered in snow.

KING: That is Travis Watt. He's general manager of the Three Bear Lodge and See Yellowstone Alpen guides. They run snowmobile and snow coach tours. After a previous government shutdown, outfits like his got concessions to operate even during a shutdown.

WATT: All the guides are encouraging people to take care of things, clean up after themselves and be respectful of the rules. And that even - there's not a lot of overseeing, I guess, or guidance. But - and they're doing a really good job that way. It's just, unfortunately, so many of really our friends and colleagues are out of work right now.

MARTIN: Clean up after yourselves, and be respectful - also good advice for the lawmakers debating the shutdown. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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