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Muslim youth group cleans up national parks while government remains shut down

10 January 2019

A former national park ranger is hailing the Trump administration's move to free up revenue from national park visitor fees to go toward operational costs needed to keep parks open through the partial government shutdown.

Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana warned Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Saturday of "significant risk to property and public health" without funding.

Montana is home to two of the most visited national parks in the country - Yellowstone and Glacier. But officials said the park should be ready to open once the shutdown is lifted.

But though tragic on their own, the tally of deaths is not out of the ordinary for the expansive National Park Service, which sees an average of six deaths per week, Litterst said.

Unlike most previous government shutdowns, the Trump administration has gone to great lengths to keep parks open despite concerns from groups that it leaves national treasures vulnerable to vandalism and creates a unsafe environment for visitors. "As the lapse in appropriations continues, it has become clear that highly visited parks with limited staff have urgent needs that can not be addressed exclusively through the generosity of our partners", says National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith.

While there are questions about the legality of using visitor fees to maintain park operations, the approach announced Sunday was included previously in a shutdown contingency plan for the agency. The new order authorizes parks that have "available balances" of these fee funds to spend them on operations that include trash collection and sanitation, road maintenance, campground operations, law enforcement and emergency operations, and entrance staff "as necessary to provide critical safety operations".

"The Department of Interior is very likely violating appropriations law, " said Representative Betty McCollum, Democrat of Minnesota and the new chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on interior, environment and related agencies.

He explained, "the only time the park felt close to getting out-of-hand was during peak visitation over the holidays due to the sheer number of visitors, and fortunately, the amount of damage was minimal".

"If we allocate what fees have been collected before to this temporary stop gap emergency funding, we'll really be robbing Peter to pay Paul", she said.

"Either way, this president is only happy as long as the American people pay for his every whim whenever it suits him, " Grijalva said.

Even though Joshua Tree National Park has received overwhelming amounts of care from the local community, the cost of keeping a park maintained are at the expense of people's both personal finances and time. The paper said "hundreds" of NPS staff could return to work as a result.

Bhatti said many Americans do not know what it is to relate to Muslims and that more than 60 percent of Americans do not personally know a Muslim, and community service outings help increase dialogue with persons of other faith.

Muslim youth group cleans up national parks while government remains shut down