As Congress continues to search for common ground over partisan issues, the freeze on government activity is beginning to manifest itself in some visible—and visibly disgusting—ways. With some federal employees on furlough, the nation’s beloved parks are falling into disarray. Piles of trash and even human feces are now contributing to an increasing blight on our public lands.
The Associated Press reports that the federal government shutdown has forced rangers and other staff to stay on the sidelines while many national parks remain open to the public. With no one picking up after them, visitors are leaving behind a considerable amount of waste. One Yosemite Valley resident told the AP that the sight of overflowing trash receptacles and illegal behavior is “heartbreaking.” A Los Angeles Times story noted that visitors are urinating and defecating on the sides of roads because the park has closed the restrooms.
Park officials have closed some iconic sites—like Yosemite's Mariposa Grove—due to an overrun of trash or if a lack of supervision could result in damage to historical areas, pose a risk to public safety, or endanger wildlife.
In the absence of supervision, some local business owners and volunteers have taken to picking up trash and arbitrating disputes over campground sites. At Joshua Tree National Park in California, people have been hanging holiday lights on the fragile trees and participating in illegal off-roading. The park closed its camp sites on Wednesday to offset additional problems.
The waste crisis will likely continue until the shutdown has been resolved. The National Park Service tweeted on December 22 that while some areas will remain accessible during the stand-off, access “may change without notice.”
[h/t IFL Science]