Proposed bill would allow states to fund national parks during future shutdowns

Bryce Canyon National Park stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGEShould states be allowed to automatically takeover the funding of national parks the next time the government shuts-down? Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, believes so, and has introduced legislation to that effect.

On Wednesday, Stewart rolled out the Provide Access and Retain Continuity Act, or PARC Act, which will enable states to fund the continued operation of national parks and other federal facilities, as well as other programs that have direct economic impacts on tourism, mining, timber, or general transportation across the state, in the event of a future government shutdown or lapse in appropriations.

Chris Stewart, Republican candidate for Utah's 2nd Congressional District | Photo courtesy of the Chris Stewart campaign
Chris Stewart, Republican candidate for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District | Photo courtesy of the Chris Stewart campaign

The tourism, mining, timber and transportation industries lost millions of dollars each day that the government was shut down,” Stewart said in a statement. “That’s absolutely crushing to communities that rely on these industries.

The recent government shutdown began Oct. 1 and lasted 16 days. It closed national parks and monuments, as well as many federally-funded services. An estimated 800,000 federal workers were furloughed and it cost the national economy over $20 billion.

The shutdown finally ended in the early morning hours of Oct. 17, after the Senate and House voted to temporarily extend government spending through Jan. 15, and raised the debt ceiling through Feb. 7. However, if Congress once again becomes deadlocked, as it it did on Sept. 30, another shutdown may occur.

The PARC Act would ensure that an agreement is in place to allow states to quickly continue funding and operating federal facilities and programs that are vital to their economies, if they so choose,” Stewart said. “There is no reason that hardworking American families and communities should be punished due to circumstances over which they have no control.”

During the recent government shutdown, Utah struck a deal with the U.S. Department of Interior allowing the state to reopen national parks with state funds on the twelfth day of the shutdown. In the event of a future lapse in appropriations, the PARC Act would allow states to immediately fund and operate these federal facilities and programs in order to maintain a continuity of access to lands and resources.

In a letter to President Barack Obama during the shutdown, Gov. Gary Herbert said Utah could potentially lose around $100 million due to national parks and related areas being closed to tourists and included emergency declarations made by Utah counties that had been negatively affected.

According to the Deseret News, the state lost an estimated $30 million during the shutdown.

Utah sent the Department of the Interior $1.67 million to fund the national parks for 10 days. In a special session of the state legislature held Oct. 16, legislation was passed devoting nearly $7 million to funding the national parks through Dec. 1.

Though the state legislation was not executed due to the partial government shutdown ending, the governor’s office said it could be put into effect the next time the federal government grinds to a halt.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

Bryce Canyon National Park stock image, St. George News
Bryce Canyon National Park stock image, St. George News

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