ST. GEORGE – During a “Conversation with the House” meeting held at the St. George City Offices, Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart announced the state and the Department of the Interior have reached an agreement for funding eight of Utah’s national parks and monuments.
The announcement was met by cheers from over 100 people in attendance at the meeting as Lockhart said the parks could be open Saturday morning, if not sooner. The National Parks Service has asked for at least 24 hours to recall personnel and prepare for the reopening of the parks and monuments.
However, according to the official announcement from the governors office, parks may be open as soon as Friday. Gov. Gary Herbert made the announcement around 8:45 p.m.
The national parks and monuments that will reopen include:
- Arches National Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Capital Reef National Park
- Zion National Park
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Lake Powell)
- Natural Bridges National Monument
- Cedar Breaks National Monument
The state has sent $1.67 million to the government to keep the parks and monuments open for 10 days.
Utah’s initial funding for the agreement will come from existing resources within the Division of State Parks of the Department of Natural Resources. Further action may be warranted by the Utah State Legislature in a special session expected for next Wednesday, Oct. 16. The governor’s office continues to work closely with legislative leaders to make DNR whole and identify optimal solutions. If the government shutdown continues beyond 10 days, Utah can make additional payments to keep the national parks and monuments open.
If the federal government shutdown ends before then, the State will receive a refund of unused monies.
With the parks being reopened within the next 24-36 hours, Lockhart said: “We really need to get the word out” that the parks are open. She added that deals are already being arranged with media groups to broadcast the news across the state and beyond.
“Utah’s national parks are the backbone of many rural economies and hard-working Utahns are paying a heavy price for this shutdown,” Herbert said. “I commend Secretary Jewell for being open to Utah’s solution, and the world should know Utah is open for business and visitors are welcome.”
While Secretary Jewell made it clear to the governor she cannot obligate the federal government for reimbursement to the state, the agreement stipulates repayment will be possible with approval from Congress. Consequently, the governor has engaged Utah’s congressional delegation to actively pursue timely repayment to state coffers.
National parks, monuments and recreation areas across the country were closed due to the partial government shutdown that began Oct. 1. Due to the negative effect on the tourism industry surrounding national parks and related areas in the southern part of the state, a number of Utah counties declared local states of emergency and appealed to Gov. Gary Herbert for aid.
On Wednesday and Thursday Herbert spoke with Interior Secretary Sally Jewel about reopening the parks in Utah using state funds. An agreement between the state and the Department of the Interiors was reached Thursday night.
Updated at 8:45 p.m. with statements from the governor’s office.
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- 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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