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

Former Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Trump moves to crack down on Iranian oil exports | Florida lawmakers offer bill to ban drilling off state's coast | Bloomberg donates .5M to Paris deal Florida lawmakers offer bill to ban drilling off state's coast Overnight Energy: Gillibrand offers bill to ban pesticide from school lunches | Interior secretary met tribal lawyer tied to Zinke casino dispute | Critics say EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use 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.