States: No Thanks, We’ll Keep National Parks Closed

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On Thursday, President Obama announced that even as the federal shutdown continued, states could open national parks within their borders, with one caveat: States must use their own money to cover expenses. Several states reacted by essentially saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.” By one estimate, national parks and nearby communities have been losing $76 million for each day that park gates have been closed due to the ongoing federal government shutdown.

The closures have provoked anger—and in some cases, defiance—at national parks around the country. Last weekend, crowds of protesters climbed over gates and illegally entered Zion, Acadia, Badlands, and other national parks. According to one report, as of last Monday rangers had handed out citations to 21 people who were in Grand Canyon while it was closed. Last Friday, an innkeeper along the federal-run Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina defied orders and opened his gift shop and restaurant for a couple of hours before rangers shut the operation down.

In southern Utah, where the local economy is particularly reliant on national parks, several counties recently felt forced to declare a state of emergency because business has essentially come to a standstill.

(MORE: Three Parts of the U.S. Being Hammered Economically by the Shutdown)

Unsurprisingly, Utah is one of the states jumping at the chance to reopen national parks after getting the green light from the feds. Late on Thursday, Gov. Gary Herbert signed an agreement to wire $1.7 million in state taxpayer money to the federal government to cover the tab for keeping five national parks (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Zion) and other national recreation areas open for 10 days. The parks should open by Saturday morning of this all-important holiday weekend.

“C’mon down to Southern Utah,” Herbert said during the ceremony in which he agreed for Utah to pay the national parks’ $167,000-per-day costs, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “We expect you’ll have a great time in Southern Utah and our parks are open.”

Neighboring Colorado is also at least partially on board with the plan to open access to its national parks, shutdown or no shutdown. The Denver Post, noting that Rocky Mountain National Park has lost some $4.8 million in tourist spending in the shutdown’s first 10 days, reported that the state would reopen Trail Ridge Road, a key access point for tourists to parklands. For some, however, removing the gates from one road doesn’t do enough:

“We need it all to open,” said town of Estes Park spokeswoman Kate Rusch. “Not only do we have about 200 National Park Services employees (in the area) who are not able to go to work now, but this is also the gateway to the park. There’s been a real decline in visitors to a community struggling to recover from the flood — and that’s a huge blow.”

Even though park closures are causing losses in the millions around the country, several states aren’t taking the federal government up on its not-quite-generous offer. “Florida taxpayers will not foot the bill to cover Washington’s failure to negotiate and compromise,” said a spokesman for Florida Gov. Rick Scott, explaining why Everglades National Park and other national parks and monuments would remain closed throughout the Sunshine State.

(MORE: Money Talking: Shutdown Crisis Could Weaken the Almighty Dollar)

Likewise, national parks in California will remain shut until the federal government resumes funding them. H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the California Department of Finance, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the state can barely afford paying for its own lands, so covering the federal land tab is out of the question. “Even if the state were to front general funds for this, or for any other program for that matter,” he said, “the executive branch cannot unilaterally guarantee that the state would be reimbursed for out-of-pocket costs. It would require an act of Congress to do that.”

In Montana, home to Glacier National Park and other national recreation areas, Gov. Steve Bullock said he wouldn’t open up state coffers in order to open up parks. “When I say that it’s long past time to open up the government and end this reckless and job-killing shutdown, I mean the entire government — benefits for the families of service members killed in combat, ‘open’ signs at Social Security offices and resumed use of our national parks,” Bullock said, according to the Helena Independent Record.

“It’s unacceptable that a state like Montana could be forced to bear even more of a financial burden because of Washington’s failures,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont), who plans on introducing legislation that would mandate states be fully reimbursed for any expenses related to park closures during the shutdown.

Utah and other states that are using their own funds to open parks also hope that the federal government will pay them back, but it’s unclear how, when–or if–such payments will take place.

15 comments
GrayLiddell
GrayLiddell

I don't understand why the Park Service had to go out of its way to close empty space? Shut down a park? I t is not like they make anything in a park. That was on purpose to grossly inconvenience and piss off the public. Shutting empty lands? Gimmee a break. I canoe the Potomac and the US Park Service spent money to tow a concrete Jersey barrier to block a dirt and  gravel parking lot so people could not use it!
I have never seen a Ranger at that parking lot in 20 years of use. So they block empty space to stir up the public so they will blame someone. Jeez I wonder who that is, with reporters tilting 8 out of 10 to the Lib side.?


casmith9984
casmith9984

whilst i don't understand in full why the parks have been closed, my 50th birthday present from my bird watching husband who is recovering from cancer....a 5000mile trip from the uk to miami/florida keys has been a waste of money, 

who do i ask for a refund?

RosaHines12
RosaHines12

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MikePenney
MikePenney

Unfortunately Congress is full of a bunch of dumbass freshmen sent there to disrupt everything in the name of big bad government. They have no interest in running the country they are just terrorists... working from the inside.  And then there are the "party leaders" who seem to be afraid of these terrorists.  This is because jerry mandering has allowed party extremists to plant people in office who don't give a damn about anything but their own pet project.

rokidtoo
rokidtoo

Tea Partier, Rep. Steve Daines:  “It’s unacceptable that a state like Montana could be forced to bear even more of a financial burden because of Washington’s failures...”  What financial burden? Montana businesses are suffering because you and your Tea Party compatriots decided that shutting down the government was good political strategy for getting what you want ---whatever that is.



MannyCastro
MannyCastro

The Republican National Committee should be billed for all costs of the shutdown. 

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@MikePenney I agree 100%, except Jerry Mandering is Veteran living in Indiana.  I think the word you were looking for is "gerrymandering"...

tallaman87
tallaman87

@MannyCastro Obama: "I will not negotiate." 

Question: Will you at least submit a budget even your demoncrat minions in the senate will pass? No budget = no money. 

vbscript2
vbscript2

@JimBalter @casmith9984 The entire federal government, which hasn't been able to work together to get anything done in years. There is a 100% lack of leadership in Washington right now on both sides of the aisle. We need real leaders who will put running the country for the good of the people ahead of calculated political moves for the good of themselves and their campaign donors. Neither party has that, at least not in its leadership, right now.

shawnathanb
shawnathanb

@tallaman87 @MannyCastro  Its Congress that does the budget. They are halting because they want to throw out a bill that the people voted in a year ago.

vbscript2
vbscript2

@shawnathanb @tallaman87 @MannyCastro The people never 'voted in' the PPACA. Polls have always shown it be disfavored by a majority of Americans. Obama didn't run on PPACA; he ran on casting Mitt Romney as a big, bad evil Wall St. guy. The elections that had PPACA front and center were a disaster for Democrats, which is how we got most of the Tea Party nuts in Congress in the first place.