Nature lovers rejoice as Great American Outdoors Act wins House vote

July 24, 2020 by  
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On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the  Great American Outdoors Act , which secures funding to protect many U.S.  parks  and recreation areas. Now all the bill needs is President Trump’s signature. The important environmental bill promises permanent funding for the  Land Water Conservation Fund  (LWCF). While most people aren’t familiar with the fund, it has been working behind the scenes since 1964, using oil and gas industry revenue to pay for national, local and state parks and federal historic sites. Related: The importance of greenways during a pandemic The bill reads, “There shall be deposited into the fund an amount equal to 50% of all federal revenues from the development of oil, gas, coal , or alternative or renewable energy on federal lands and waters.” The fund must be used for priority deferred maintenance projects administered by the National Park Service, Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education. While the LWCF has existed for over 50 years, non-conservation projects often siphoned off its funds. In 2020, the fund only received $495 million out of the $900 million put into its account — far below the budget needed to maintain  trails  and park facilities. Groups around the country rejoice over this win. “While not costing taxpayers a penny as the funding comes from royalties collected through offshore oil and gas drilling , LWCF has supported over 42,000 parks and recreation projects across the country, secured more than 100 national battlefields and protected more than 2.2 million acres of national parks,” Maite Arce, President and CEO of the  Hispanic Access Foundation , said in a statement. “In fact the majority of Americans live only minutes from an LWCF site. Americans of all stripes reap the benefits of these protected places, which help support local businesses and provide outdoor access and opportunities for hunters, fishermen, climbers,  hikers , bikers, and campers across America.” In light of the pandemic hitting the economy hard and keeping people cooped up to the point of stir craziness, the bill’s passage seems especially timely. A recent poll by the National Recreation and Park Association found that 83% of U.S. adults said that access to open spaces, local parks and trails is essential for their mental and physical well-being during these times. + GlobeNewswire Image via Pexels

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Crowds fill national park for Yellowstone reopening

May 21, 2020 by  
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As some of the biggest national parks start to reopen, visitors reassure themselves that it is safe to be outdoors. But unfortunately in places like the ever-popular Yellowstone National Park, everybody is crowding in to see Old Faithful. On May 18, cars with license plates from all over the country filled Yellowstone’s parking lots and hardly a mask was in sight as people crowded together to watch the park’s famous geysers. Locals worry this could spread the virus to their communities. For now, only Yellowstone’s Wyoming gates are open. The Montana entrances remain closed. Tour buses, overnight camping and park lodging aren’t allowed. The park’s official stance is to encourage the use of masks in high-density areas. Related: Best practices for outdoor exercise during COVID-19 “We checked the webcam at Old Faithful at about 3:30 p.m. yesterday,” Kristin Brengel, senior vice-president of government affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association, told The Guardian . “Not much physical distancing happening and not a single mask in sight.” Cars from all over began lining up at 5:30 a.m. for Yellowstone’s noon reopening. Local Mark Segal said his was the only car he saw from Teton County. He worried about out-of-state visitors spreading the coronavirus to the local community. “What if everyone that leaves here goes and gets a bite in Jackson?” he asked. “This is exactly what we’re afraid of.” Montana and Wyoming have had fewer COVID-19 cases than surrounding states. Locals are divided on the issue, with some local business owners pressing the park to reopen and bring much needed tourism dollars, while others are more concerned about public health. Melissa Alder, co-owner of a coffee and outdoor store called Freeheel and Wheel in West Yellowstone, told NPR she’s feeling nervous. “We are fearful of the congregation of people that will come, and I don’t think we’re ready,” Alder said. “I mean, we don’t have a hospital. We don’t have a bed. We don’t even have a doctor full-time here in West Yellowstone.” Via The Guardian and NPR Image via NPS / Jacob W. Frank

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Shipping container retreat in Brazil is inspired by tiny homes

February 7, 2020 by  
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Airbnb now has another incredible tiny home retreat to add to its unique lodgings on offer. Located on a stunning prairie landscape in Brazil’s Cambará do Sul area, the Cambará Container House is comprised of two 20-foot shipping container units that have been carefully crafted by local firm Mégui Dal Bó Arquiteta into cozy accommodations. The design was inspired by the minimalism and reduced waste ethos behind the tiny home movement. Working with owner Carina Boff, architects Saymon Tech Dali Alba and Mégui Pezzi Dal Bó wanted to create a serene retreat for people to get the most enjoyment out of their visit to the Cambará do Sul area, which is a popular spot for people to use as a base while exploring two national parks that are nearby. Along with the parks, the region is known for its expansive prairies and deep valleys. Related: This tiny home with a rooftop deck is made from two shipping containers Inspired by the area’s beautiful scenery, the architects decided to create two volumes out of repurposed shipping containers . Measuring just 365 square feet each, the shipping container guest houses were designed to be as sustainable as possible. Crafting the shipping containers into rental units allowed the architects to reduce the project’s overall construction time and waste. The shipping containers were also elevated off of the landscape in order to minimize impact on the environment. The shipping containers serve as tiny homes that offer guests all of the conveniences of a conventional luxury getaway but within a minimalist, cozy setting. Using as many environmentally friendly materials as possible, the lodgings feature contemporary living areas, kitchenettes and dining spaces. Each unit can accommodate up to four guests with a double bed and a sofa bed. The retreats are heated thanks to a wood-burning fireplace that lends a bit of a cabin aesthetic to the otherwise contemporary interior design . To foster a strong connection between the interior and the exterior , the shipping containers each feature two outdoor spaces. First, a pair of sliding glass doors open up from the living area to a front balcony. Secondly, guests can enjoy the containers’ rooftops, which were outfitted with spacious open-air terraces. + Mégui Dal Bó Arquiteta + Cambará Container House Via ArchDaily Photography by Guilherme Jordani via Mégui Dal Bó Arquiteta

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White Sands officially becomes the 62nd national park

December 26, 2019 by  
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Last week, President Donald Trump signed legislation, seen here , designating White Sands National Park as the 62nd national park. Since 1933, the country’s largest gypsum dunefield has been a national monument. The recent signing of the National Defense Authorization Act (the 2020 defense spending bill), with a provision on White Sands, has now upgraded the national monument to its new national park status, thereby protecting its glistening white sand dunes, which are visible even from outer space. In 2018, a study conducted on eight national monuments that were upgraded to national parks found that redesignation increased visits by an average of 21 percent in the five years after redesignation. Projections further estimate that White Sands’ redesignation will bring $7.5 million in revenue and $3.3 million in labor income. Related: How national parks benefit the environment Wondering why the provision was included in the 2020 NDAA? The reason stems from White Sands National Monument sharing land with White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), the long-standing national military weapons testing area and site of the first atomic bomb detonation. By 1963, NASA established the White Sands Test Facility at WSMR, which eventually became the primary training ground for NASA space shuttle pilots and a rocket research test site. However, White Sands’ appeal goes beyond strategic military and aerospace history, extending to its geological, biological and anthropological assets. For instance, the endless dunes’ surreal beauty makes White Sands one of Earth’s natural wonders. Gypsum, which makes up the dunes, is a common sedimentary mineral, usually forming via precipitation from highly saline waters. Thus, White Sands’ landscape formed because Lake Otero dried up millennia ago . Its predominantly desert habitat today supports unique wildlife , with five endemic species and many well-adapted flora and fauna. Archaeologically, the area was home to hunter-gatherers as far back as 10,000 years ago and even has the planet’s largest collection of Ice Age fossilized footprints. “Our staff are very excited for White Sands to be recognized as a national park and to reintroduce ourselves to the American public,” shared Marie Sauter, superintendent of White Sands National Park. “We are so appreciative of our partners, local communities and congressional leaders who made this achievement possible and look forward to continued success working together.” With national park 36 CFR 2.1 protections, desert sand and other resources cannot be removed from White Sands. This ensures the ecosystem thrives and remains in tact for future generations to enjoy. + National Park Service Via EcoWatch Image via White Sands National Monument

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White Sands officially becomes the 62nd national park

Conservation group to purchase worlds largest privately owned giant sequoia forest

October 2, 2019 by  
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Alder Creek, a 530-acre forest billed as the largest privately owned giant sequoia property in the world, will be acquired by century-old conservation group, Save the Redwoods League. The group will ultimately transfer the land to the United States Forest Service to safeguard the trees as a national treasure. Alder Creek’s sequoia trees number 483, many with diameters of 6 feet or greater. Mightiest of Alder Creek’s sequoias is Stagg Tree, believed to be the fifth-largest tree in the world. It towers at 250 feet with a width of 25 feet. Related: How National Parks benefit the environment Known for reaching heights of more than 300 feet, giant sequoias are esteemed for their rarity. What sets apart the giant sequoia from other trees is that it lives to be up to 3,000 years old, older than Christmas itself. Only two other tree species — the Great Basin bristlecone pine and the Patagonian cypress — have members older than the giant sequoia. These trees are only found in approximately 73 groves across 48,000 acres of Sierra Nevada territory. Most of the land these majestic behemoths grow on is in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Forest and Yosemite National Park .  The height and girth of one giant sequoia means this ancient type of tree is resilient. Its carbon-sequestering capacity makes it irreplaceable, which is why its long-term conservation is of poignant significance. It is also home to such endangered animals as the American marten, California spotted owl and Pacific fisher. “Old growth of any species , let alone the world’s largest trees, is extraordinarily rare,” explained Samuel Hodder, president and SEO of Save the Redwoods League. “There is precious little left of the natural world as we found it before the Industrial Revolution. Alder Creek is the natural world at its most extraordinary.” Alder Creek, located about 10 miles south of Yosemite National Park, is comparable in size and significance to the renowned Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Of the 1,200 acres of giant sequoia stands still held privately, Alder Creek is the largest, measuring about five times the size of other privately owned parcels. Alder Creek has been on land owned by the Rouch family since the 1940s. Claude Albert Rouch initially purchased the land for logging . While the family logged pine and fir for lumber, they made sure the giant sequoias remained unscathed. The deal has been under negotiation for the past 20 years, and the group has until the close of 2019 to garner the $15.6 million required to secure Alder Creek’s purchase. + Save The Redwoods League Via Times Standard Photography by Victoria Reeder via Save the Redwoods League

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Conservation group to purchase worlds largest privately owned giant sequoia forest

13 fun and sustainable activities to enjoy before summer ends

August 16, 2019 by  
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The dog days of summer linger from early morning until late into the evening, providing plenty of opportunities to play, travel and work in the yard. If you’re focused on making sure those summer activities are earth-friendly, we’ve brainstormed some ideas to get you into the great outdoors without leaving a heavy footprint in your wake. Hiking Getting into nature is easy with nothing more than your refillable water bottle and a good pair of shoes. Depending on where you live, you can head straight out your front door, bike to a nearby trail, jump on city transport or take the hybrid car to a trailhead. Hiking doesn’t have to be done on trails, but why not take advantage of the forest canopy, rippling water and scenery that nature provides while getting in your steps. Touring city parks Nearly every city has parks, and often you’re not even aware of them all. Especially if you have kids, vowing to track down each park in your city is a fun way to immerse yourself in your community without leaving a trace. Enjoy the trails, playground equipment and informational kiosks in your area one city park at a time with a goal of seeing them all before summer ends. Swimming Water activities are popular during warm weather for more than a few reasons, and swimming is a great activity for your body and the planet. If you choose a river or lake, make sure you understand the dangers of currents and always have a life jacket. The community pool is a great way to get in your laps while enjoying the cooling effects of the water in a maintained facility. Cycling Jump on your bike next time you’re scouring the Saturday market or heading to the store for small items. Use it as your mode of transport when you go to a friend’s or to the pool. If you want to make an adventure out of it, look up nearby mountain biking trails or road biking routes that fit into your schedule and physical abilities. Enjoy the exercise without polluting the environment. Camping/backpacking Getting into nature is a valid goal for any season, but summer offers opportunities for fair-weather camping and backpacking that the other seasons don’t. To keep it sustainable, watch the packaging on the items you buy, skip the plastic water bottles and use refillable propane tanks instead of disposable ones. Remember to pack out all garbage, including toilet paper. Bury human waste 6 to 8 inches underground and always do your business at least 200 steps from any water source. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials Kayaking/rafting/river floating River activities are the highlight of summer in many places. There are several ways to enjoy these activities without damaging the environment, especially when you avoid polluting the water with gasoline engines. Instead, rely on your arm strength and the current to kayak, float or white water raft. Scuba diving and surfing If you’re near the ocean or hope to head in that direction for vacation, hit the surf with a board for a good workout and adrenaline rush all in one. Take in the diversity of the marine wildlife you aim to protect through your sustainable lifestyle by grabbing a tank and heading below the surface. Check certification requirements and diving regulations in your area for the safety of yourself and the ecosystem. Be sure to use reef-safe sunscreen while in the water. Visiting national parks There are 61 national parks in the United States alone, plus other protected areas around the world. Wherever you are, take in these natural wonders via bike, hike, boat, air or water. Unless you attend during one of the free national park day events, expect to pay an admission fee, which helps fund the maintenance and care these parks require. Remember to keep your wasteful packing to a minimum, pick up garbage when you see it and use the waste receptacles or haul your trash home. Related: How national parks benefit the environment Barbecuing The very essence of summer is defined by the concept of grilling with friends. Fresh fruit, grilled meat and veggies and frozen ice cones make for a memorable afternoon. Make sure your event is earth-friendly with reusable plates, cups and utensils. Recycle items whenever possible, watch for plastic packaging, skip the single-use straws and make ice ahead of time instead of buying it at the store in plastic bags. Going on a road trip Road trips are a great family bonding experience and an opportunity to really see the land you live in. Throw in the camping gear or plan your lodgings ahead of time. Hit up those national parks or head to the beach. Make your trek as environmentally friendly as possible by bringing snacks packed at home, refillable beverage containers and washable plates and utensils. Toss in some biodegradable soap for washing yourself and those dishes. Playing lawn games Whether you’re at home, the beach or the campground, lawn games are a fabulous activity. Entertaining and memorable, dragging out the cornhole or horseshoes is an earth-conscious choice, too. Watch for games made with plastic ; instead invest in quality metal or wood parts instead. Then, get out there and start the bocce ball, croquet or golf short-chip challenge. Participating in sports There is no end to the number of sports you can play, and almost all of them are low-impact from an environmental stance. Shoot hoops, head to the park for disc golf, put together a neighborhood baseball game or take up wake surfing. Going to museums Although summer is a very outdoorsy time of year, some days are just too hot, cold or wet. When the weather isn’t cooperating, head indoors and learn something new at a museum . Find something related to your interests or those of your kids and focus on art, history, native culture, ships, planes, technology, architecture or toys. Images via Jan Walter Luigi , Dan Fador , Leon He , Pixabay , Jacqueline Macou , RawPixel , Christoph Lindner and Just Pics

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Trumps July 4th celebration cost our National Parks millions

July 5, 2019 by  
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The Independence Day festivities hosted by the White House yesterday cost the National Park Service an estimated $2.5 million dollars, money that is typically earmarked for park maintenance and rehabilitation. The rainy celebration, which included military jet fly overs, tank displays and the largest firework display in D.C. history, is the most expensive July 4th celebration any president has hosted. What Trump promoted via Twitter as the “show of a lifetime” was loosely inspired by his trip to France during Bastille Day. After the proposed budget for a similar celebration last year reached $92 million, Trump had to scale back his plan. Related: How National Parks benefit the environment The president also made a speech yesterday, a first in 32 years. For the past three decades, presidents have elected to not speak at the Independence Day celebrations out of respect for unity and patriotism and an attempt to not politicize the holiday. “Today, we come together as one nation with this very special salute to America. We celebrate our history, our people and the heroes who proudly defend our flag — the brave men and women of the United States military,” Trump said during his speech. Despite his message of unity, tickets for the highly anticipated events were given out as gifts to high-rolling donors to the Republican National Committee. “This is a breach of trust with the public,” said Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association. “The public pays parks fees to fix national parks and for educational programs, not the president’s parades.” The national parks are reportedly $12 billion dollars behind in their maintenance needs, and this event is another major setback. While the event cost the country’s parks $2.5 million, the Trump administration refused to reveal exactly how much the antics cost taxpayers in total. Before the celebration, Trump tweeted , “The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth. We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats.” Via EcoWatch Image via Joyce N. Boghosian / The White House

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Celebrate mom with these 10 gifts of time this Mother’s Day

May 6, 2019 by  
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Mother’s Day is the time of the year to really show how much you appreciate Mom. You can always go the traditional route and get your mother a nice card and some flowers, or you can make the day more meaningful by spending some quality time with her — not to mention that gifts of time are better for the planet! From attending a cooking class to relaxing at the spa, here are 10 gift ideas that are sure to make Mother’s Day enjoyable for the whole family. Cooking class Let’s be honest, your mom is probably the best cook you know. But why not put her skills to the test by taking a culinary class together? These classes are a great way to bond with your mom while learning how to make a new dish. Cooking classes vary depending on where you live and are typically offered through a college or culinary school. Related: The Seasonal Food Guide helps you store, cook and enjoy seasonal produce Wine tasting trip Visiting a local vineyard is a great way to relax and try out some local wines . Vineyards usually offer entire day packages that give you a tour of their vineyard and a taste of their best wines. If your mother is a wine enthusiast, she will absolutely love spending a day with some vino — and her loved ones, of course. Painting class You do not have to be the next Picasso to enjoy a painting class. Many places even offer painting classes to take while sipping on your favorite wine, which might just be the best of both worlds. The class will usually charge a flat fee for supplies. All you have to do is show up with a good attitude, and you and Mom will go home with some art for your collections. National Park visit If staying indoors isn’t for you, consider visiting a national park. There are dozens of national parks spread across the United States, and each one offers a unique experience. All it costs for you to explore the great outdoors is an entrance fee and a little bit of time. Depending on your location, some activities you will find include horseback riding, hiking, camping, fishing, wildlife watching  and rafting. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials If you would like more information about National Parks and where to find them, check out the National Park Service website. Museum pass Museums rotate and add new collections all the time, so if your mom is into art, consider purchasing a day pass at her favorite gallery. You may even find an establishment that offers special tours on Mother’s Day. There are also a wide variety of museums you can check out, including art museums, natural history museums, historic museums and even building tours. Once you are done, take Mom for lunch to talk about the most intriguing things you came across during the trip. Spa day A day at the spa is good anytime of the year. If you have a little extra cash to spend, why not purchase a package for two at your favorite spa? Trust us — your mom will absolutely love it. Some spas will even offer special packages for Mother’s Day, making this gift pretty much a no-brainer. For a more sustainable gift, have a DIY spa day, complete with homemade face masks and lotions. Yoga class It can be very difficult for moms to find time throughout their busy days to relax and meditate. Take away the stresses of the work week by gifting your mom with a  yoga class. You can usually find a studio or two that offer beginning courses, which is a great way to introduce your mom to the practice. If you plan on taking the class with her, we recommend finding one that is designed for families. You could also consider purchasing a monthly membership, just in case your mom wants to return another time or is already an avid yogi. Garden gifts Taking a walk through your local botanical garden is another great way to get outdoors on Mother’s Day. The holiday is set at the perfect time to celebrate the blooming season. If walking through a botanical garden is not an option, you can always bring the plants to her. Starting a small herb or veggie garden for your mother will constantly remind her how much you love and cherish her. The trick is to use plants that are fairly easy to maintain and require little attention to thrive. Some good options include onions, cilantro or thyme. Family photos Mother’s Day is the perfect time to snap a few photos with the entire family, because everyone is usually dressed in their best  for the day anyway. You can hire a professional to take the pictures, or just enlist the help from a family member, friend or neighbor. After the photo session, be sure to have the photos printed and framed for Mom! Homemade brunch One of the ultimate ways to show your mother that you love her is to cook  brunch for her. Invite other members of your family and have everyone contribute one of your mom’s favorite dishes. With a full stomach and loved ones to enjoy, this will be one Mother’s Day your mom won’t soon forget. Images via Shutterstock

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Celebrate mom with these 10 gifts of time this Mother’s Day

Senate approves major public lands bill

February 15, 2019 by  
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On Tuesday the U.S. Senate reversed the trend of shrinking protected space by approving a public lands bill that adds 1.3 million acres of wilderness, creates five new national monuments, expands some national parks and reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This major new public lands bill is a hodgepodge of more than 100 individual bills related to conservation and outdoor recreation. Now more than 350 miles of river will attain the designation “ wild and scenic ,” which safeguards them and limits development. Outdoor lovers will enjoy nearly 700,000 acres of new recreation areas and 2,600 miles of new trails. In Montana and Washington, 370,000 acres of land will be excluded from mineral development. Related: Bureau of Land Management moves forward with the sale of sacred land The National Park Service will administer three new national monuments created by the bill: the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home in Mississippi, former residence of the murdered civil rights leader; Camp Nelson, Kentucky, a Civil War hospital and recruiting center; and Mill Springs, Kentucky, a Civil War battlefield. The two other new national monuments will be Jurassic National Monument, 850 fossil-rich acres in Utah, and the Saint Francis Dam in California, site of a tragic collapse in 1928. The Land and Water Conservation Fund , a bipartisan 1964 creation of Congress, expired last September. The fund used revenue from offshore oil and gas to fund conservation of water resources, natural and recreational areas and cultural heritage. The new public lands bill revives the fund. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been a pre-eminent program for access to public lands,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. However, this public lands bill victory came after a fight. Republican Senator Mike Lee derailed the bill last year by trying to exempt his home state of Utah. Lee has been an outspoken opponent of the 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument, created at the end of President Barack Obama’s term, and other obstacles to development and mineral extraction. “This victory was a long time in the making, and it is the result of the steadfast efforts of many who care deeply about America’s natural treasures,” said Sen Richard Burr, R-N.C. “Protecting this program is the right thing to do for our children, grandchildren and countless generations so that they may come to enjoy the great American outdoors as we have.” Via APNews Images via Free-Photos

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Damage to Joshua Tree during the government shutdown could take centuries to repair

February 1, 2019 by  
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The recent month-long government shutdown may have caused “irreparable” damage to Joshua Tree National Park, according to former superintendent Curt Sauer. During those 34 days, visitors ruined trails, cut down trees and vandalized the park, and when workers returned, they found absolute chaos. “What’s happened to our park in the last 34 days is irreparable for the next 200 to 300 years,” Sauer — who ran the park for seven years — told the Desert Sun . The shutdown reduced ranger supervision, which led to increased vandalism. Officials decided to temporarily close the park on January 8. But the next day, they managed to avoid the closure and stay open with the help of revenue from recreation fees. Related: National Parks are being trashed during the government shutdown During the shutdown, many national parks were forced to operate without rangers, and volunteers helped out by hauling trash and cleaning bathrooms. Joshua Tree national park is 1,235 square miles, and the volunteer help wasn’t enough to keep people from ignoring the extra care warnings and damaging the park. Park spokesman George Land said that some visitors had created new roads with their vehicles and destroyed some of the Joshua trees. David Smith, the current superintendent, explained that there were a dozen different instances of vehicles going off-road and into the wilderness, creating two new roads inside the park. People also cut chains and locks to access campgrounds. “We’ve never seen this level of out-of-bounds camping ,” Smith said. “Everyday use area was occupied every evening. Joshua trees were actually cut down in order to make new roads.” Many locals were not happy with the park staying open during the shutdown . John Lauretig, executive director of the non-profit group Friends of Joshua Tree, said that the parks shouldn’t be held hostage. He added that having a park open and partially staffed isn’t good for the park, the public or the local community. He also believes that if the government shuts down again, the park should close completely to prevent more damage. Via Desert Sun  and  The Guardian Image via Christopher Michel

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