Last Sunday, Carlsbad Caverns National Park posted on Facebook a photo of a mask in the caves with a reminder to all to respect nature – “Since becoming a National Park, we have seen changes in our caves caused by our presence. Many have damaged the formations, knowingly and unknowingly, by touching the cave walls and speleothems, as well as leaving things behind, altering how the cave looks for those who come next.” The recent addition of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic has become the new hot commodity to leave behind in nature, both in and out of our national parks.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is not the only park to experience these problems. Back in July, Yellowstone National Park expressed similar concerns stating that in one day, they found eight masks, along with hats, water bottles, and sunglasses in the Geyser Basin thermal area alone. Parks Canada also tweeted recently, reminding visitors that masks can hurt and damage wildlife and that they are continuing to find them being left all over the place. Back in August, Ontario Parks in Canada tweeted a similar message too about an increase in littering since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why Is This Happening?
According to Andrew Chow, who wrote a piece on this issue in Time magazine, one of the main reasons there has been such an increase in littering, vandalism, and disrespect in parks not only in the United States but across the world is the surge in first-time visitors to these places. COVID-19 has driven many to nature because it has been a way to get out alone and distanced, but unfortunately, many remain uneducated on the issue.
Hopefully, with continued reminders and work with the public, everyone can learn how to respect and treat nature properly, wherever one may be.