2013 National Parks Shutdown: Interior reports $414M overall losses with Utah salvaging $10M

ST. GEORGE — A natural resource report prepared at the request of the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service was released Monday. The report evaluates the effect of the October 2013 federal government shutdown on visitor spending at national parks and their gateway communities.

Despite overall lost revenues estimated at $414 million, the report showed notable revenues generated during the reopening of some national parks for those states, Utah included, that entered into reopening agreements with the federal government during the shutdown.

Utah’s agreement with the federal government allowed it to reopen all of its five national parks, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Rainbow Bridge and Cedar Breaks national monuments. It was the first of several states that made similar agreements, and Utah’s were opened for the longest period, six days,  from Oct. 11-16, 2013, when the shutdown ended.

“We didn’t need this report to tell us how important our national parks are to tourism and our economy,” Nate McDonald, public information officer with Gov. Gary Herbert’s office said.

By the report’s analysis, Utah generated about $9.95 million in national park-related visitor spending in gateway communities during the six-day reopening period.  The state advanced money for 10 days but only six days elapsed before the government shutdown ended. The federal government repaid Utah for the remaining four days. In the end, Utah paid $999,432 to reopen its parks for six days.

Each dollar Utah used to open its parks generated about $10 in visitor spending in return, according to the Interior, with 153,400 visits during the six-day reopening period. Thereupon, the report concludes:

…  According to internal NPS records, approximately 16 percent of visitor spending in national parks in Utah occurred inside the park boundaries. Based on this estimate, of the $9.95 million in visitor spending during the state funded period, approximately $1.59 million was spent within the national parks in Utah and the remaining $8.36 million was spent in the gateway regions surrounding the parks. As shown … the amount of visitor spending by each park more than offset the total cost paid by the state to keep the parks open during the remainder of the shutdown and eliminated the uncertainty of lost NPS visitor spending to local gateway businesses. …

“Utahns understand very clearly how important our national parks are to our state economy, particularly in rural Utah,” Gov. Gary Herbert said. “The report released by the Department of the Interior shows what we have understood all along: we made the right decision to re-open our parks during the federal government shutdown.”

In a press conference held Monday, Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said: “These places of history, culture and natural wonder offer unparalleled experiences and return $10 for every $1 American taxpayers invest in the National Park Service.”

Across the U.S. during October 2013, overall national parks visitation declined by over 7.88 million visitors, which is down 33.3 percent when compared to average October visitation numbers collected from the three years prior to the shutdown. Using these visitation numbers, the report estimated that in parks and gateway communities across the country, the result of the shutdown was a total loss of $414 million in national parks-related visitor spending.

States that experienced the highest declines in visitor spending during October 2013 compared to normal averages were California and Arizona.

Utah came in seventh on the highest declines list. Of its parks and national areas, those that experienced declines in revenue over $2 million were:

  • Arches National Park, 35,543 decline in visitors with an associated $3.9 million loss
  • Bryce Canyon National Park, 45,468 decline in visitors with a $3.6 million loss
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, 59,695 decline in visitors with a $3.4 million loss
  • Zion National Park, 59,053 decline in visitors with a $3.1 million loss

In Arizona, Grand Canyon saw a decline of 163,653 visitors with associated loss of $17 million; but Arizona’s agreement with the federal government reopening the park for five days brought in 49,436 visitors with an estimated $5.1 million in visitor spending.

There were several things the report admittedly could not account for such as the possibility that not all monies were lost but may have been spent at a later date as visitor trips were rescheduled, or spent in other nearby locations. A previous St. George News report found that sites like Snow Canyon State Park saw jumps in their visitation during the national parks shutdown. Impacts on jobs, local income and national park employees are not reflected in the study.

“Our national parks help propel our nation’s economy, drawing hundreds of millions of visitors every year who are the lifeblood of the hotels, restaurants, outfitters, and other local businesses that depend on a vibrant and reliable tourism and outdoor recreation industry supported by our public lands,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said upon release of the report.

Visitor spending averages were calculated using estimates from an annual NPS Visitor Spending Effects report for the year 2012. Spending averages covered all trip expenses within roughly 60 miles of the park.

The annual National Park Service Visitor Spending Effects report was also released Monday and can be found here.


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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.


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  • Bub March 4, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    The shutdown was one of the Tea Party’s many brilliant ideas. Thanks to Mike Lee and the rest of the idiotic clowns 😀

  • Bender March 4, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Another wise financial move by Tea Party mascot Short Sale Mike Lee.

  • Biden 2016 March 4, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    I place the blame for the shutdown squarely on the shoulders of Barney Fife in the White house. Republicans should have hung in there with Cruz and Lee. Bub, I think you are going to be surprised in November when the Tea Party helps sweep the elections towards a more conservative legislative branch . People have had it with the current situation in Washington.

    • Bub March 5, 2014 at 10:03 am

      Maybe just like the good ol’ days of Bush Jr. then? Credit bubbles, unneeded wars, trillions in wasteful spending. Yup, I can’t wait.

  • Scot March 5, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Bub, did you say trillions? You need to do some research before puking out absurd numbers. Where did you get your trillions from? You really need to look at the trend of the national debt for the last twenty years. Yes, Bush was an idiot, but Obama is worse. Why can’t they both be bad? We need someone who is not like either one of these idiots. If you think Bush or Obama have been good presidents we are doomed.

    • Bender March 5, 2014 at 4:47 pm

      Your frat boy in the White House during 2000-2008 started two unfunded wars adding two trillion to the national debt, signed the unfunded Medicare Part D expansion of benefits adding at least one billion (so far), slashed the taxes on the wealthy adding about three trillion, and then slinked out of the Oval Office as the economy got flushed down the crapper and left us in the worst recession since 1929. Somehow this is all the fault of the black guy?
      Crawling out of this economic mess was going to be a long slow journey no matter if McCain, Romney or Obama was president.
      I posit that AM talk radio plays the same role for dull-witted adults as does attending primary for the little kids. The difference being while the primary kids learn to sing “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam” and how to be nice to each other, the AM radio ditto-heads get drilled into them for 4-hours a day how they are being systematically mistreated by the liberals. Simple indoctrination.

  • Scot March 5, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    Where in there did I say I went to college with Bush or I liked him? You also bring race into it? Maybe I am reading wrong but I didn’t bring up color in my comment. You are trying to make this a race thing? ROFL………You need to stop feeling sorry for yourself. I don’t listen to AM talk radio, but it looks like you do.

    • Bender March 5, 2014 at 6:44 pm

      My mistake; you’re a FOX news cable guy then?

  • Scot March 6, 2014 at 10:19 am

    You need to quit grasping at straws Bender. You have too much anger built up inside you also. You are so angry at something that you imagine words and sentences that aren’t even there. Please calm yourself and be civil.

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