Trump Administration Forced Joshua Tree To Stay Open During Last US Shutdown

"Emails show David Bernhardt of interior department overrode superintendent of California park, causing ‘chaos and destruction’"

"By the time superintendent David Smith decided to close Joshua Tree national park on 7 January 2019, the list of problems was already long. Tire tracks wove through the wilderness mapping a path of destruction where rare plants had been crushed and trees toppled. Charred remains of illegal campfires dotted the desert, and historic cultural artifacts had been plundered. Trash piles were growing, vault toilets were overflowing and park security workers were being pushed to their limits.

It was week three in what would become the longest shutdown of the US government, and the famed California park was feeling the consequences of operating without key staff, services and resources.

To protect the park and its workers, it would have to close, Smith thought.

But the Trump administration, which demanded national parks remain accessible throughout the shutdown, wasn’t willing to change course. In a controversial move, David Bernhardt, who had only recently been appointed acting secretary of the interior, called Smith and ordered him to keep the gates open."

Gabrielle Canon reports for the Guardian September 28, 2023.

Source: Guardian, 09/29/2023