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Park rangers take action to protect ancient trees from vandals: 'It's hard to keep people out'

"We're just hoping that people do the right thing."

"We're just hoping that people do the right thing."

Photo Credit: iStock

The Arizona sycamores that grow around Montezuma Castle National Monument haven't been feeling the love.

The problem? An uptick in people writing and carving in their bark. 

According to Cronkite News and the Arizona Daily Star, park rangers have begun wrapping the bases of the trees in cutting-resistant burlap to combat this. They hope that the burlap will help dissuade people from leaving their marks on the trees. 

Unfortunately, vandalism in parks isn't an isolated issue. 

"It's impossible to close off a national park. … It's hard to keep people out. We're just hoping that people do the right thing," Cam Juárez, a spokesperson for Arizona's Saguaro National Park, told the news outlet. 

Saguaro saw its last major incidence of vandalism in 2016, when a tourist destroyed multiple saguaro cactuses, a plant that is culturally important to the Tohono O'odham Nation and provides shelter and food for local wildlife. 

Elsewhere, a hiker at Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks found significant amounts of litter, as well as writings and carvings defacing items in the park. A heart drawn on what appears to be the base of an ancient tree was among the unsightly distractions. 

While popular culture has romanticized the idea of carving a permanent symbol into nature, the practice can have consequences for the health of the plants, in addition to ruining the experience for others hoping to see the untamed beauty of nature

The Arizona sycamore not only provides a nesting ground for a variety of creatures but also helps make the desert temperatures more forgiving by increasing humidity, according to the National Park Service.  

At Montezuma Castle, though, the majestic trees were getting carved so frequently that they were unable to heal, leaving them more susceptible to disease and pests.  

Richard Ullmann, a program manager for Flagstaff Area National Monuments visitor services, highlighted how tourists play the biggest role in protecting the parks — and themselves — by engaging respectfully with their surroundings.

"Majority of the people understand and do the right thing," Ullmann told Cronkite News. 

"In the case of an act of vandalism, it's an opportunity to help that individual or that person or group of people do something different next time. It's an educational opportunity," he added

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