A former superintendent of California’s Joshua Tree National Park is warning of “irreparable” damage to the park following the partial government shutdown.
Curt Sauer cited widespread illegal off-roading and other environmental concerns that arose during the funding lapse while addressing a gathering of dozens of park visitors and supporters on Saturday.
“What's happened to our park in the last 34 days is irreparable for the next 200 to 300 years," he said, according to the Palm Springs Desert Sun.
The Saturday rally was originally intended to call for an end to the 35-day shutdown, but more than 100 people still showed up one day after President TrumpDonald TrumpMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Democrats troll Trump over Virginia governor's race Tom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event MORE signed a bill to reopen the government to draw attention to the shutdown’s environmental effects on the park.
Sauer, who is retired, reportedly spoke of environmental damage, vandalism, off-road driving and financial losses to the park, and warned those gathered that the government could shut down again in February if Congress does not pass a long-term funding bill.
He also accused the government of spreading “fake news” by saying that the park was “adequately staffed and protected.”
Those gathered at the rally carried signs reading “Please stop treating human beings like pawns” and “Screw politics: I want to go rock climbing,” according to the reports. And a local musician played a rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”
Joshua Tree was one of the national parks forced to rely on local volunteers to handle basic maintenance during the shutdown amid reports of damage to the area.
The Trump administration took the rare step of keeping the parks open during the funding lapse with “skeleton” staffing. After reports of vandalism and trash piling up, the National Parks Service moved to allow park managers to tap into entrance fee revenue to bring on cleanup and patrol staff.
The park expects to be fully operational Monday with the return of furloughed employees.