Garbage, faeces take toll on U.S. national parks amid shutdown

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Forget sunsets and mindblowing landscapes, the usual sights of the US's most iconic national parks have been overshadowed with reports of human poop and piles of trash as the federal government's shutdown rolls into the new year.

Many national parks remain open but with skeleton staffs.

Signs at Joshua Tree informed campers this week that the grounds would close "for the safety of visitors and park resources" due to a "lapse in federal appropriations".

The shutdown has also forced the closure of campgrounds at Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California - where the dirty work is left to volunteers.

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At California's Yosemite National Park, for example, trash and human waste are piling up, as restrooms are overused with few employees to maintain them.

Yosemite National Park issued this visitor information: "National Park Service-provided information and orientation are not available".

Unlike some previous government shutdowns, when national parks closed entirely, gates have remained opened under the Trump administration, leaving parks severely understaffed.

Other national parks suffering because of the shutdown are Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, which had to close their restrooms and trash bins due to overflowing.

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For more information on US national parks partial closures, visit the National Park Service's Twitter account here.

The Smithsonian Institution will close off its museums and the National Zoo on Wednesday because it has depleted its temporary funding.

But David Lamfrom, director of the California Desert and National Wildlife programs of the National Parks Conservation Association, told CNN that overwhelming amounts of poop isn't the only concern.

Almost all roads inside Yellowstone are normally closed for winter, meaning most visitors at this time of the year access park attractions like Old Faithful or the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone through guides. Friends of Joshua Tree has also partnered up with local residents to organize drives to provide toilet paper for the park.

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Besides instances of people using the woods as a toilet, MacDonald said his biggest concern is what the shutdown could mean for Acadia in the long term. Those guides are splitting the cost of grooming the trails used by their vehicles to keep their operations going, said Travis Watt, general manager of See Yellowstone Alpen Guides based in West Yellowstone, Montana. The lack of staff is already taking its toll less than two weeks into the partial government shutdown, as reported by The Associated Press (AP). "Once conditions go downhill, they will be hard to restore", writes Purdy.