ST. GEORGE – Thursday afternoon it was reported by the Associated Press that the Obama Administration will allow states to open some national parks using their own funds. However, while the states may open some parks, the National Park Service will retain control.
Nate McDonald, a spokesman for Gov. Gary Herbert’s Office, confirmed the news and shared the following from Ally Isom, the governor’s deputy chief of staff, via email:
“Governor Herbert just got off the phone with (U.S. Interior) Secretary (Sally) Jewel,” Isom said. “We’ve had a breakthrough and are working out details now.”
Utah, Arizona and South Dakota are among the states that have asked the federal government to allow the states to fund the reopening of the national parks, citing the economic hardship it is causing residents who rely on tourism generated by these parks for income.
Multiple counties in Southern Utah have issued states of local emergency due to the negative economic impact the closures of the parks has caused. In a letter to President Barack Obama, Gov. Herbert said $100 million from tourism generated revenue has been lost so far.
Any proposal put forth by the governor to fund the parks may have to be voted on and passed by the state Legislature, which could be done in a special session next week. However, a special session could be held much sooner if necessary.
“I’m not sure it requires a special session,” Herbert told Fox 13 News, “but obviously the legislature will be involved as soon as it’s determined the cost,” he told FOX 13 News.
Herbert has indicated that he may be able to dip into the state’s emergency funds and use them to get the parks opened much quicker.
The goal is to get the parks to open within 24 hours, so Zion, Bryce Canyon and other national parks could be open by Friday afternoon.
State Sen. Steve Urquhart announced Tuesday on his Facebook page that he plans to walk into Zion National Park this upcoming Saturday — whether the park is open or not. He has also invited as many people as possible to join him in a peaceful act of civil disobedience.
Depending on how negotiations go between the state and Interior Department, Urquhart’s group may be able to walk into an opened and state-funded Zion National Park.
According to a report from Fox 13 News, it costs about $22 million a year for the government to fund Utah’s national parks.
For the moment it is a waiting game, Washington County Commissioner Denny Drake said. “There are no details yet” concerning the legal details and contracts being figured out between the state and feds, he added.
Drake said that earlier in the week the counties had prepared to takeover management of the national parks within their boundaries, believing they had a deal with the government to do so. However, that option didn’t work out and county officials decided to wait and see what kind of deal Herbert could arrange with the Interior Secretary.
As soon a deal is made, Drake said, the parks could open immediately.
- Shutdown: Southern Utah continues assessing options for national parks; Herbert wants negotiation
- Perspective: Shutdown; Who is willing to pay the price?
- Letter to the Editor: Shutdown; can’t have your cake, eat it too – demanding parks stay open when closure hits home
- Shutdown: ‘Paralysis in Washington’ causes counties to ask governor for aid
- Perspectives: To make our live as difficult as they can
- Shutdown: ‘Occupy Zion’ protesters defy national park gates
- Shutdown: Visitors ignore closure order, Grand Canyon National Park reacts with closure of Highway 64
- Shutdown impacts Springdale, Washington County tourism
- Bryce Canyon businesses say ‘it’s hurting bad;’ impact of government shutdown, alternatives for tourists - Includes alternatives for tourists
- Shutdown: Zion National park closes, what else is affected? - Includes alternatives for tourists
- Utah congressmen speak to government shutdown
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