WASHINGTON — Under pressure from governors, the Obama administration said Thursday it will allow some shuttered national parks to reopen — as long as states use their own money to pay for park operations.
Governors in at least four states have asked for authority to reopen national parks within their borders because of the economic impacts caused by the park closures. All 401 national park units — including such icons as the Grand Canyon and Yosemite and Zion national parks — have been closed since Oct. 1 because of the partial government shutdown. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees have been furloughed, and lawmakers from both parties have complained that park closures have wreaked havoc on nearby communities that depend on tourism.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the government will consider offers to use state money to resume park operations, but will not surrender control of national parks or monuments to the states.
Jewell called on Congress to act swiftly to end the government shutdown so all parks can reopen.
Utah’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert, said late Thursday he had wired money from state taxpayers that will open Utah’s national five national parks. He said he was inking a deal with Jewell that provides $166,000 a day in funding for the five red rock parks and other units of the national park system, starting Saturday. He said that will keep them open for 10 days, and the state can buy extra days as needed.
Interior Department spokesman Blake Androff said the government does not plan to reimburse states that pay to reopen parks. Costs could run into the millions of dollars, depending on how long the shutdown lasts and how many parks reopen.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.