"I do not make this request lightly—closing the national parks will disrupt many lives," Trust for Public Lands President and Chief Executive Officer Diane Regas wrote in a letter to Trump on Thursday. "But leaving them open without the staffing and resources they need imperils the health and safety of visitors and the long-term integrity of the parks."
While about a third of the country's national parks have been closed to visitors since the shutdown began two weeks ago, those that remain open have seen a number of issues as a result of understaffing, including litter and vandalism. Many environmental groups and legislators (including Arizona Representative Raúl Grijalva, the Democrat who recently became chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources) have expressed concern that continued access to the parks could result in serious damage to natural resources. "Allowing access to national parks without taking care to steward those resources is irresponsible and could result in irreversible damage and loss," Regas wrote in her letter.
"We're alarmed by the situation of partially closed parks, which is an irresponsible and unsustainable way to manage a shutdown," John Garder, senior director of budget and appropriations for the National Parks Conservation Association, told E&E News.
In an op-ed published Thursday in the Guardian, former National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis compared leaving the parks open without the necessary staff to "leaving the Smithsonian museums open without any staff to protect the priceless artefacts."
Keeping national parks open with limited staff and resources is also dangerous: As Outside reports, at least one person has died in a national park since the shutdown began.