Then Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, who visited the Joshua Tree National Park on January 21, saw dog owners lure their pets out of the leash – and not the resulting droppings.

When he reminded a group of park guests how important it is to maintain the park, especially since the normal clean-up crew has been let since the government's partial cancellation on December 22, they have rejected him with murders under his / her breathing. clear that they did not intend to leave their dogs behind or lift them.

In order to protect the natural environment, Joshua Tree National Park needs pet owners to keep dogs on and off the parks, roads and picnic areas of the park at all times. Normally rangers roam the park to remind guests of the rules that have been drawn up to protect the park for future generations, but since the government was closed, the park only has crew members with a skeleton.

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Ruiz visited Joshua Tree on Monday to get " [his] hands dirty, "he said, picking up trash from park visitors.

The congressman collected crumpled newspapers, butane tanks and food packaging as an entourage of the press, staff and representatives of local environmental groups that followed.

"This is a way to reach a more personal, more direct level, and not to be the man who is in an office and considering theoretical issues, but to be in the field with the people and with the environment; possible to do that I can to mitigate the consequences of this reckless and irresponsible shutdown, "he said.

Ruiz wandered through the park and asked guests questions about what they noticed since the government stopped. He asked Chris Kaiser, a hiker who has camped in the park since Christmas, if he had noticed changes during the stoppage.

Kaiser said that he and other campers talked about the impact of the shutdown on the environment around the campfire, and were worried about the damage caused to the park. That said, Kaiser said he was encouraged by the many volunteers, climbers and campers working to protect the park, cleaning and spreading hand sanitizers.

"When the government collapsed for the first time, there was a safety breach, the toilets refreshed, the garbage was leaking, but it seemed that the volunteers had really done it," Kaiser told Ruiz. "These are just people who sincerely care about me, it was fun to see."

About 16 percent of park staff across the country have retained their service. Joshua Tree has not collected entrance fees from park visitors and has lost about $ 700,000 in revenue. The namesake Joshua Trees of the park, an endangered plant species, was cut down. Toilets and trash cans have run over.

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Chris Clarke of the National Parks Conservation Association said he found it heartbreaking to see the damage to the park. Although many companies around the park are dependent on tourists, NPCA is of the opinion that the government must close the park to prevent damage.

"My desire to see the park well sometimes makes things a bit uncomfortable," he said. "But 99 percent of people who visit the park are here because they want to see this treasure and do not want to erode them."

On the question of whether the park should close for the duration of the shutdown, Ruiz said he did not know but had weighed the potential benefits and consequences.

"You have to take into account the benefits of visitors to our local economy and the revenue that might be used to help the volunteers clean up the park compared to the unwanted damage and accidents that can occur," he said.

If the park is closed, the National Parks service must ensure that visitors do not enter, said Ruiz.

"When we close, we need to think of a way to prevent people from trying to enter the park in a way that will cause even more damage, so they can use roads and not ride off-road in areas that would cause more damage. can cause, "he said.

Because the current closure of the government is the fourth place since 2013, Ruiz said the community should draw up plans to protect the park in the event of future shutdowns.

"No one even wants to think about preparing for a new shutdown, but we can not be naïve and think that a new shutdown will never happen, especially if you have hyper-partisans who want to use shutdowns as leverage to get what they want," he said. "We need to start thinking about how we can organize with non-profit organizations and community organizations, so that there is an organized way to maintain and clean these national parks."

Sam Metz covers politics. Reach him at samuel.metz@desertsun.com or on Twitter @metzsam.