The Joshua Tree National Park is still in recovery mode more than half a year after the government shut-down but the damage-done remains for years to come as local volunteers continue to deal with the aftermath.
John Lauretig is a volunteer with the Friens of Joshua Tree, he said the park continues to be very popular with visitors but many of them are clueless of the harm they cause to the natural environment.
Lauretig points at some ashes on the ground left from an illegal fire, he said, “You can see a metal lid is here and a couple of other things in the ash pile there, the staining on the rock and if I didn’t know any better I would here and say, ‘Oh look there was a fire, I bet I can start a fire here again’,”.
Fires in non-burn areas are a problem throughout the park, as the burnt wood and trash will not disintegrate as other organic particles. The Friends of Joshua Tree were part of the group of volunteers who helped maintain the park clean during the latest government shutdown.
Many visitors flocked the park when it was unmanaged and caused harm to the desert.
He said, “You know driving as far as they could off the desert in some places and again we’ve talked about how fragile the desert is and how long it takes the desert to recover from those kinds of marks and damage.”
He said these vulnerable areas that cars should not drive into, even if the driver is careful not to hit a Joshua Tree or a rock.
Lauretig said, “When you drive across that crust it breaks it up and then the wind could blow all that dust away and then plants and animals can’t live on that desert ground anymore because it gets blown away its just dirt.”
He said most of the times visitors do not know how exactly they are causing harm because of the unique desert environment. The Joshua Tree area is dry and most of its natural plant and animal species rely on keeping their habitat intact. The desert is not like other areas where rain helps maintain the life cycle, here, if the cycle is broken it may never recover.
Lauretig said, “I think some of the fire damage kind of covered some of the rock up there and it’s hard to tell whether if not there was rock art up there or not and that’s another problem for the archaeologist.”
However, the Friends of Joshua Tree are hosting a benefit concert at the end of the month in Pappy and Harriet’s. The money collected here will help with the group’s mitigation efforts of the park and it is also another venue to share educational information on the local natural resources.
He said, “We’ll be able to buy supplies, tools safety glasses, gloves for people to come out during climb smart do the service project and be able to give back something to the park.”
You may learn more about the volunteer group on their website.