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

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

In an unprecedented move, the National Park Service has chose to dip into entrance fee funds to pay for expanded operations during a government shutdown that has furloughed many of its workers. The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) stipulates that fees charged by federal parks are created to fund services for visitors - not the maintenance of parks.

The Park Service indicated that smaller sites could remain shuttered for the duration of the partial shutdown, with the funding stream being used to "allow the American public to safely visit many of our nation's national parks while providing these iconic treasures the protection they deserve".

"Within days", National Park Service personnel will address "burdens born by local communities", such as cleaning restrooms, garbage collection and road maintenance at larger national parks in Utah, Acting Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt announced Sunday.

As national parks have remained open yet understaffed over the past two weeks, Purdy and dozens of others across the country have volunteered to fill in for the missing workers.

"The law is clear: if the federal government is shut down, our National Parks must also be closed to protect public safety and pristine spaces", said McCollum, who recently became chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Interior Department. Under the law, 80 percent of the money collected must be spent on the park while 20 percent can go to fund activities at other park sites.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a New Mexico Democrat and new chairman of the House Resources Committee, was quoted in the Washington Post questioning the legality of using the maintenance funds for operations.

McCollum said that she had voiced her concerns about the parks' predicament in a phone call with Bernhardt on Saturday evening but that he had not shifted course. Some believe this move could drain park reserve funds.

Under the move, the Park Service will use entrance, camping and parking fees to fund efforts to remove trash, maintain restrooms, deploy rangers and to make more areas accessible to the public in parks across the country.

While visitors could enter the park without a vehicle, it's not recommended.

The duty is usually assigned to employees of the park.

Stewart said Sunday that he was happy Interior would keep the parks running.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that by seeking to keep parks open through the shutdown, the Trump administration had broken with the Clinton and Obama administrations, which cut off access to parks when funding elapsed.

She said it was especially concerning given the fact that many of these parks have already lost a significant amount of park fee money - sometimes in the millions of dollars - by not collecting fees over the holiday season, when many of them have increased visitors.

The park, from what I witnessed, looked incredibly well maintained - the trash cans were near empty and bathrooms stocked with toilet paper.

The news of the National Park Service's decision brought some relief to his wife.



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