Feds: States may use their own funds to reopen national parks

We could soon be getting some of our parks back

Topics: Government shutdown, national parks, Utah, Department of the Interior, U.S. Congress, , ,

Feds: States may use their own funds to reopen national parksThis Oct. 3, 2013 file photo shows a sign at the south entrance to Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz., indicates the park is closed. The Obama administration says it will allow states to use their own money to reopen some national parks that have been closed because of the government shutdown. 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. (Credit: AP/Brian Skoloff)

Congress had yet to reach a compromise that can end the government shutdown, but the standoff between local and federal officials over national parks, at least, appears to have been resolved.

Secretary Sally Jewell said today that the Department of the Interior will consider working with governors who have requested permission to reopen the parks within their borders — provided they pay for it themselves. The federal government will not, however surrender control of the parks to the states.

Citing lost revenue in the millions, Utah, South Dakota, Arizona and Colorado had all requested permission to sidestep the shutdown for the sake of their local economies. In Utah, according to a local news source, plans are already underway to get things up and running again:

Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, said he talked with the governor [Gary Herbert] about the possibility of a special session Wednesday. He anticipates lawmakers would take about $5 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to cover costs to manage the parks.

Along with that, Okerland [sic] said, the Legislature would consider a bill that says the state is “willing and would like to take over management of parks since the federal government seems unwilling to do it.”

Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, who plans to take a protest hike into Zion National Park on Saturday, said he would support using state money as long as the bill includes a reimbursement agreement.

The House Natural Resources Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a joint hearing next week, according to CNN, to determine whether it’s necessary for national parks and monuments to be shut down at all.

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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