While U.S. National Parks will generally remain open with a skeleton staff through the federal government shutdown, Republican governors in at least two states are working to make sure public restrooms get cleaned and visitor centers stay open.
The government shutdown of all but essential federal services due to a fight on Capitol Hill over funding for U.S. President Donald Trump’s wall on the Mexican border comes at the height of the Christmas travel season.
The National Park Service said this week that parks “will remain as accessible as possible,” in the same way as happened during a three-day government shutdown in January, when the gates to about two-thirds of national parks and monuments remained open.
“However services that require staffing and maintenance such as campgrounds and full-service restrooms will not be operating,” Jeremy Barnum, the National Parks Service chief spokesman, said in a statement.
The Republican governors of Utah and Arizona have promised to step in to fill some of the breach, in part to protect local businesses in and around some of the country’s most spectacular natural landscapes that depend on tourist spending.
“Regardless of what happens in Washington, the Grand Canyon will not close on our watch,” Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said in a statement on Friday. The Arizona Office of Tourism will help ensure that restrooms are cleaned, trash is collected and shuttle buses operate throughout the shutdown, Ducey said.
All five of Utah’s national parks will remain open, and the three most popular ones will have maintenance costs underwritten by the state during the shutdown, according to Vicki Varela, the Utah Office of Tourism’s managing director.
Zion National Park alone drew 107,000 visitors between Dec. 22 and Dec. 27 a year ago, Varela said.
“This time of year is the most remarkable time of year to experience it because the snow against that red rock is just breathtaking,” she said in a telephone interview.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert authorized the temporary funding for custodial and visitor center services, which will cost an estimated $18,000 to $19,000 for Zion. “It’s really modest on the part of the state to protect the quality of the experience for visitors,” Varela said.
In New York, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island closed down for a day during the January shutdown before Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, ordered state tourism funds be used to reopen them. His office did not respond to questions about whether he would repeat the exercise this weekend, and National Park Service officials in New York declined to discuss their plans.
Some conservationists warned that it was safer to shutter the parks entirely, as happened under Barack Obama’s presidential administration during a 2013 shutdown, rather than have them open with skeleton staff.
During the January shutdown, a pregnant elk was killed in Zion and tourists in Yellowstone drove snowmobiles dangerously close to the Old Faithful geyser, said Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association.
“It’s unrealistic and dangerous to think that parks can remain open with only a skeleton crew and continue with business as usual,” Pierno said in a statement
New Zealand may postpone general election after 4 test positive for COVID-19: PM Jacinda Ardern
New Zealand locked down nursing homes nationwide Wednesday after a 102-day streak without the coronavirus ended, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the outbreak could force her to postpone next month's general election.
Ardern said authorities were scrambling to trace anyone who had been in contact with four Auckland residents who tested positive Tuesday, ending the dream run in which the virus had been contained at New Zealand's borders.
A three-day stay-at-home order for Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city with a population of 1.5 million, was announced on Tuesday night and went into force at lunchtime on Wednesday.
Android phones to get ‘ShakeAlert’ earthquake warnings — and phones may double as tremor detectors
Android phones will receive warnings triggered by a "ShakeAlert" earthquake early-warning system implemented on the West Coast by the US Geological Survey and partners.
ShakeAlert uses signals from hundreds of seismometers across the state to trigger warning messages that "an earthquake has begun and shaking is imminent," according to the system's website.
"We saw an opportunity to use Android to provide people with timely, helpful earthquake information when they search, as well as a few seconds warning to get themselves and their loved ones to safety if needed," principal software engineer Marc Stogaitis said in a blog post.
‘Don’t talk about racism, racist’: Trump scorched after claiming Biden-Harris campaign has a ‘racism problem’
President Donald Trump continued to lash out at Kamala Harris after the California Democrat was chosen to join the 2020 Democratic Party ticket as presumptive nominee Joe Biden's running mate.
At a news conference following the selection, Trump complained about Harris being "nasty."
After 10 p.m. on Monday, Trump tweeted out an attack ad claiming "Joe Biden has a racism problem."
Here's some of what people were saying about Trump's line of attack: