Feds to let states pay to open national parks

 

Associated Press

The Obama administration said Thursday 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.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the government will consider offers to pay for park operations, but will not surrender control of national parks to the states.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has said his state has resources that could be used to operate the parks if federal funding is not available. Governors of South Dakota, Arizona and Colorado have made similar requests.

October is a peak month for tourism in many parts of the West.

Herbert said in a letter Tuesday to President Barack Obama that the shutdown of national parks has been “devastating” to individuals and businesses that rely on park operations for their livelihood. Utah is home to five national parks, including Zion, Bryce and Arches, which attract visitors from around the world.

“The current federally mandated closure is decimating the bottom line of bed-and-breakfast business owners and operators in Torrey (Utah), outfitters at Bryce Canyon City and restaurant owners in Moab,” Herbert wrote.

He estimated the economic impact of the federal government shutdown on Utah at about $100 million.

Blake Androff, a spokesman for Jewell, said the Interior Department will consider agreements with governors who “indicate an interest and ability to fully fund National Park Service personnel to re-open national parks in their states.”

Decisions about which parks to reopen and for how long have not been made, Androff said.

Figures compiled by a coalition of retired park service workers indicate that some 700,000 people a day would have been visiting the parks and that the surrounding areas are losing $76 million in visitor spending per day.

The park service said it is losing $450,000 per day in revenue from entrance fees and other in-park expenditures, such as campground fees and boat rentals.

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