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National parks brimming with trash, human feces as government shutdown continues

Park rangers and other staffers are among the thousands of federal employees furloughed

Loic Pialat/AFP/Getty Images

Overflowing garbage cans, human feces, and illegal off-roading are just a few of the problems plaguing some national parks where visitors are taking advantage of the lack of supervision during the partial government shutdown.

Park rangers and other staffers are among the more than 380,000 federal employees furloughed during the shutdown that is in its 12th day.

The Trump administration has permitted the parks to remain open despite the staff furloughs. Previous administrations have closed the parks during shutdowns, The Associated Press reported.

What's the story?

Some parks have begun closing certain areas out of public health and safety concerns, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Joshua Tree National Park in California closed its campgrounds Wednesday amid health concerns.

The National Park Service noted that the pit toilets were near capacity and human waste in public areas was becoming a problem, adding that illegal off-roading and other harmful actions were also causing damage to the park.

Yosemite National Park announced that it would also be closing several areas because of "human waste issues and a lack of staffing."

"It's a free-for-all," Dakota Snider, 24, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley, told the AP Monday. "It's so heartbreaking. There is more trash and human waste and disregard for the rules than I've seen in my four years living here."

Kristen Brengel, vice president of government affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association, told CNN that the absence of supervision seems to have created a sense of "lawlessness" among the parks' visitors.

"People are bringing in dogs and drones and there are instances where people aren't following the rules and it is not good for the wildlife and the environment," she said.

Officials at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado said Monday they were closing restrooms and locking up trash bins.

What else?

At some parks, private companies have jumped in to handle some the maintenance normally handled by federal employees.

Contractors who operate tours in Yellowstone National Park are grooming trails, hauling garbage, and filling restrooms with toilet paper in an effort to keep their businesses open.

"It's definitely not our preference — the park service does a good job doing their thing and we hate to see them out of work," Travis Watt, general manager of See Yellowstone Alpen Guides based in West Yellowstone, Montana, told the AP. "But it's something we can handle."

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