The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Drew Caputo, Earthjustice –

Shutdown Causes Major Damage to Threatened Joshua Trees in Iconic National Park

Mismanagement under Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt cited as cause of destruction in Joshua Tree National Park


Following the irresponsible decision to keep national parks open without adequate staff during the federal government shutdown, vandals felled iconic Joshua trees to gain entry to the Joshua Tree National Park for off-roading late last week. The government shutdown, which became the longest in U.S. history over the weekend, left thousands of National Parks Service (NPS) employees on furlough.

Experts agree that Joshua trees face significant threats due to climate change, with many predicting the trees could face extinction by 2100. The loss of the Joshua tree could cause ripple effects for ecosystems in the western desert they inhabit, as many species rely on them. In spite of the dangers to the natural environment, officials kept parks like Joshua Tree open largely unstaffed during the shutdown.

The following is a statement from Drew Caputo, Vice President of Litigation for Lands, Wildlife, and Oceans at Earthjustice:

"It's day 24 of the government shutdown, and the Trump administration is still allowing garbage and vandalism to run rampant in our parks. We can't just replace lost Joshua trees or fix the ecological damage their destruction caused overnight. Acting Secretary Bernhardt needs to close and protect the parks while they're without proper staff and answer for this mismanagement immediately."

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.