Joshua Tree National Park to close after visitor damage during government shutdown

Beginning today, Joshua Tree National Park will close temporarily because of damaged caused by visitors during the partial government shutdown. There are few rangers at the park to prevent off-roading and since the shutdown some visitors have created new roads that have destroyed the park’s namesake tree. Since the shutdown, volunteers have stepped up to clean the 800,000-acre park. Law enforcement rangers will enforce the closure and continue to patrol the park until staff can complete the necessary cleanup and protection measures. This isn’t the first national park to close since the government shutdown. Parts of Yosemite National Park and much of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks are closed as well.

 

The last species of a Hawaiian land snail dies

George, the last known Achatinella apexfulva, a Hawaiian land snail, died on January 1 at approximately 14 years of age. He was born as a final attempt to save his species. Back in 1997, the last 10 known Achatinella apexfulva were brought into the lab at University of Hawaii to try to increase their numbers. George was the only offspring that survived. He lived alone in a cage at Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources snail lab in Kailua, Oahu. His death takes place amid a crisis for native snails on the islands of Hawaii. Hawaii’s snail population has been destroyed by a number of invasive species, including rats and Jackson’s chameleons. The native snail’s biggest threat is the rosy wolfsnail, a predatory snail from Florida introduced to the islands back in the1950’s to control agricultural pests.

 

South Carolina’s attorney general joins offshore drilling lawsuit against Trump administration

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson joined a lawsuit on Monday against the Trump administration to block seismic testing for oil and gas off of the S.C. coast. Supported by Republican Governor Henry McMaster, Wilson became the first Republican attorney general to join the lawsuit, which already includes 16 S.C. cities, nine environmental groups, and nine Democratic state attorney generals. The lawsuit hopes to stop exploration for oil and gas off of the Atlantic coast, which could harm the environment and impact S.C. tourism. S.C.’s coastal communities fear that drilling could result in oil spills, which would drive away vacationers. Seismic testing is also concerning because of its harm to marine life, which the lawsuit says could kill thousands of dolphins, whales and fish.