Joshua Tree National Park is a remarkable desert ecosystem made iconic by the famed Joshua trees that dot the landscape. In 1994, a majority of Joshua Tree’s holdings were designated as “wilderness” (a legal status in the U.S.). Subsequently, Joshua Tree was buffeted by deleterious anthropogenic forces and suffered from severe budgetary constraints. In 2018/2019, a U.S. Government shutdown forced the Joshua Tree staff into furlough, while the park remained open to visitors. The response of local volunteers, who took responsibility for educating visitors about park policies and ecosystem conservation in the midst of the shutdown, shows the extent to which networks of local and community volunteers can be mobilized to mitigate at least some of the effects of budgetary constraints that affect the wilderness and national park lands.