Joshua Tree National Park closes campgrounds due to shutdown
Palm Springs Desert Sun
Miley Cyrus came into the Palm Springs area like a wrecking ball — sort of.
For the past two weeks, the pop star has been posting photos on Instagram that appear to show herself near the windmills in Palm Springs. Her last five desert posts have received between 450,000 and 1.3 million likes.
On Tuesday, Cyrus posted two different photos of herself sitting on a Joshua tree branch in an undisclosed location.
“Looking down at all the petty drama like….,” Cyrus said in the first post.
Six hours later, she captioned her photo with “Monkey Bizzzzznassssss.”
The posts, which fetched nearly 800,000 likes combined, also received more than 4,300 comments. Several of the people criticized Cyrus and asked her not to climb on the iconic trees.
Attempts to reach Cyrus’ management team Tuesday afternoon for comment were not successful.
Many in the Joshua Tree community took issue with Cyrus’ photo.
In a statement from the Mojave Desert Land Trust, Executive Director Geary Hund said Joshua trees have a shallow root system and that additional weight can damage tree branches.
“We ask that Miley Cyrus consider her status as a public figure and remove this photo from her social media accounts in order to educate others and to prevent potential damage to Joshua trees,” Hund wrote.
Others had similar reactions.
“I admire Miley Cyrus so much but, as a community, the people of Joshua Tree have tried so hard to educate the general public about the desert and Joshua trees, specifically and this just feels like a monumental setback,” said Susan Burnett, who manages Mojave Sands hotel in downtown Joshua Tree.
“There is no way to erase the idea her image presents that climbing these endangered plants is cool. I’m counting on her to help make this right and use her platform to help us preserve these ancient beauties,” she added.
Christine Pfranger, owner of Coyote Corner, said people need to do everything possible to prevent Joshua trees, which have been impacted by climate change, from experiencing added stress.
“Love them, hug them, kiss them even, but never climb or hang from them,” she said. “Our advice to everyone if you do see a post on social media or come across someone potentially doing harm to a tree, approach them with kind education and not shame. Kindness goes a long way.”
It’s unclear whether Cyrus took the photo from a tree in San Bernardino County or Joshua Tree National Park. Nevertheless, the trees are protected in the park, Mojave National Preserve and in several city and county ordinances.
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In Yucca Valley, the municipal code states it’s prohibited to “remove, transplant, damage, disturb or destroy any part of any regulated desert native plant, except its fruit, from any privately or publicly owned piece of land in the town of Yucca Valley” without getting a specific permit.
The National Park Service forbids people from attaching hammocks, slacklines and other horizontal ropes between Joshua trees.
“We know that Miley visits the park occasionally,” said Joshua Tree National Park spokesman George Land. “We’re not sure where that tree was (including if it was in the park).”
“While we would appreciate it that people would respect the fact that desert vegetation is a little bit fragile at times,” Land continued, “we don’t want to incite people to carry out some kind of threat against Miley Cyrus, or anybody else that would do that. We would just remind her that she has a big following, people watch what she does, and it would be greatly appreciated by the Park Service and the people around the area if she would maybe curb that type of activity, especially posting it on her social media page.”
Cyrus’ posts come nearly three months after reports surfaced that portions of Joshua Tree National Park were damaged during the partial government shutdown.
In February, officials said a driver knocked down a Joshua tree.
Federal laws prohibit taking or damaging national park wildlife and plants. Joshua trees also are a protected species under state law.
According to the national park service, off-roading violations “related to wildlife, plants and natural or cultural features, carry a maximum penalty of $5,000 and/or six months in prison.”
Shane Newell covers breaking news and the western Coachella Valley cities of Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs. He can be reached at Shane.Newell@DesertSun.com, (760) 778-4649 or on Twitter at @journoshane.
Kristin Scharkey is the editor of DESERT magazine and features editor at The Desert Sun. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kscharkey.
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