Zinke: National park visitors should 'grab a trash bag'

Former Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeEurope deepens energy dependence on Russia Overnight Energy: House Science Committee hits EPA with subpoenas | California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver | Interior disbands board that floated privatization at national parks Interior disbands advisory board that floated privatization at national parks MORE called on national park visitors to help clean up trash during the partial government shutdown that has left parks severely understaffed.

Speaking to The Associated Press days after he resigned amid allegations that he violated ethics rules, Zinke defended his decision to keep parks open during the partial shutdown that started Dec. 22.

“Pitch in, grab a trash bag and take some trash out,” Zinke said.

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Conservation groups have loudly criticized the administration for leaving National Park Service sites open without much of the staff to maintain them, clean them and keep parkgoers safe.

The Obama administration closed parks during the 2013 shutdown and faced criticism from Republicans, who said the president was using parks as a bargaining chip with Congress.

In the two weeks since the partial shutdown began, some parks have reportedly seen excessive trash and human waste, illegal fires and other problems. A handful of parks have closed their gates due to the issues.