The current government shutdown is now the longest recorded shutdown in history. We spent part of last week in Shenandoah National Park to alleviate the damage being done to our public lands.
The situation and effect on our public lands is heartbreaking. Wildlife is getting into garbage that has been piling up for weeks, sliding back efforts to stop animals from relying on human food. Areas are being destroyed from people illegally poaching and creating new roads off-pavement. It’s clear that our National Parks need us now more than ever. Our public lands were set aside to always be pristine versions of the wilderness so that we always have those in existence. Now, it is up to us to help keep our parks that way.
Combing through the brush and ditches along the roads, our bags suddenly overflowed with litter. Shattered beer bottles, empty containers of food and a variety of miscellaneous items were scattered everywhere. Our team of seven spent almost two hours removing as much as we could. When finished, our efforts were pretty well aimed since we still got out 35 lbs. of litter.
How You Can Help
The government shutdown continues to wreak havoc on our public lands. While it’s recommended to steer clear of the parks until there is an end to the shutdown, it’s important to venture out with the right mindset:
If you are going to go out, do some research where you’re going to see how badly it’s been affected so far, and then just plan to be extra mindful because even if you carry out one can, it’s still one can less than needs to be there. Go with intention, but also go with the mindset of leaving it better than when you get there.
In addition to visiting with good intention, Leave No Trace principles should be at the forefront of your time spent in public lands:
Properly pack out what you bring in with you
Act as a responsible visitor by following normal park rules
Do your research on areas that may be more heavily affected due to reduced maintenance before you head out
For more information on Leave No Trace, they are providing resources to handle this destructive time for our parks. Even if you cannot visit or volunteer at your local park, giving back is more important than ever before. Make a donation directly to your park or a local organization to keep up the momentum to protect our public lands in a time where they needs us most.
Words and Images by Lindsay Kagalis