Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called on Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to provide a detailed assessment of the damage to national parks that remained open during the recent government shutdown.
“The decision to keep national parks open with inadequate staffing resulted in long-term, serious damage to our public lands and national treasures,” Senator Feinstein wrote. “In some cases the damage incurred during the shutdown will take centuries to recover. It is critical that Congress understand the extent and costs of the damage incurred so we may begin to make repairs where possible.”
Full text of the letter follows:
February 6, 2019
Mr. David Bernhardt
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Acting Secretary Bernhardt,
Now that the partial government shutdown has ended, I ask that you respond in full to the request for information I made in my January 10, 2019, letter to you. Specifically, I ask that you provide an assessment of any damages to natural resources and infrastructure and an estimate of necessary repair costs for each national park that remained open during the shutdown. The letter I received on January 11, 2019, from National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith does not address or acknowledge my information requests. I have enclosed both letters for your reference.
I am particularly concerned with the damage done to national parks in California, including Joshua Tree National Park. My staff recently visited the park and reported to me that there were more than 120 incursions and 24 miles of new tracks created by people illegally taking their cars off road through protected habitat. At least three Joshua trees were damaged and a large number of rock formations were vandalized with graffiti. Additionally, there were 100 illegal campsites, some near historic Native American petroglyphs, at which individuals used local vegetation, including a 100-year-old juniper tree, for firewood. Joshua Tree National Park lost at least $1 million in park entrance fees and human waste and garbage polluted the park.
The administration’s decision to keep national parks open with inadequate staffing resulted in long-term, serious damage to our public lands and national treasures. In some cases the damage incurred during the shutdown will take centuries to recover. It is critical that Congress understand the extent and costs of the damage incurred so we may begin to make repairs where possible. I thank you in advance for your attention to this critical matter, and I look forward to your response to my January 10, 2019, inquiries.
United States Senator