Joshua Tree to remain open during shutdown after all

Joshua Tree to remain open during shutdown after all
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Joshua Tree National Park will remain open during the government shutdown after officials moved to use park fees to avert the planned closure.

The 790,636-acre Southern California park was set to completely shutter on Thursday for several days to allow officials to address damages that have occurred during the shutdown.

But the National Parks Service (NPS) said in a statement Wednesday that officials have been able to avoid the closure.

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“National Park Service officials have determined that by using Federal Land and Recreation Enhancement funds to immediately bring back park maintenance crews to address sanitation issues, the park will be able to maintain some visitor services, including reopening the campgrounds,” the statement read. “The park will also bring on additional staff to ensure the protection of park resources and mitigate some of the damage that has occurred during the lapse of appropriations.”

The statement also thanked “local volunteers” for providing “basic sanitation at campgrounds and other closed areas” through the partial government shutdown, which started last month when President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Ann Coulter blasts Trump shutdown compromise: ‘We voted for Trump and got Jeb!’ MORE and congressional Democrats could not agree on funding for the president’s proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The park is one of several sites where visitors have reported excessive trash, dirty bathrooms and habitat destruction during the shutdown that is now in its 20th day. The Trump administration took the rare step of keeping National Parks open to the public with reduced, or sometimes no, staff instead of closing the parks.

Acting Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt signed an order last week that would allow park managers to tap into revenue from entrance fees to bring on extra cleanup and patrol staff.

The “extraordinary” move has raised eyebrows among Democratic lawmakers and former Parks Service officials, who say that using the entrance fees for operations may be illegal, and will have long-term imaging effects on park funding.

“Fees are for enhancement of visitor services ... not for basic operations,” said Obama-era NPS director Jonathan Jarvis.