Shutdown: Feds to allow states to fund reopening of national parks

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.


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


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  • Bender October 10, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Seems like a reasonable compromise. You Tea Party nuts need to figure out how to spin this as a socialist conspiracy. Ready, set, go. (Please give DoubleTap an hour head start since he’s a slow typer/thinker).

  • MY PARKS October 10, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    The Federal Government should never relinquish control of the Federal National Parks which are for everyone in this country. Can you imagine the wackiness of Utah laying claim to these National Parks? Their religious faction that controls the state government might mandate they be closed on Sundays or conference weekends/

    • Aaron Tippetts October 10, 2013 at 1:23 pm

      Thank you Pharohbama. You knew we would crash the gates down with our wheelchairs eventually anyway.

    • Bretticus October 10, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      What a useless and bitter individual you are MY PARKS. You are so wise because you have obviously done your research and there are so many state parks closed on Sunday already. The notion that you can even turn that thought to such a bitter rant of hate means you probably need to drink more alcohol or smoke more pot because you’re a little uptight.

  • Karen October 10, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    I hope everyone realizes that the state of Utah will not be repaid for re-opening the National Parks. We can thank our own Mike Lee for letting us get taxed twice on this, federal tax and now state taxes to pay for this. Mike Lee should be impeached. (My sympathies to all of the Park Rangers and local businesses and I sure hope the Utah legislator from St. George cancels his so-called “walk” into Zion. If he continues with his plan I hope he gets arrested.)

  • Shemp October 10, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Wow. So many people who can’t see the bigger picture. I guess your living doesn’t come from the money brought in by the parks. Stop and think about the amount of sales tax not being generated from the shutdown, the hardships families are having to face with no income, and other things. I am happy my state tax dollar is being used to help Utah residents keep working rather than have to go on unemployment or Welfare. Just keep up posting your hate and snarky responses. It shows what kind of person you really are. My business loses money every day the park is closed. Not a lot mind you but money none the less. We live on less than 25,000 a year so every penny counts. You should all be happy our local government is willing to stand up for our local economy.

    • Karen October 10, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      I fully support the effort to have the state TEMPORARILY take over the National Parks. I’m just putting the blame where it belongs. John McCain called it “a fools errand” about the effort by Cruz and our own Mike Lee. I sent an email to Sen. Urquhart today suggesting that rather than “walk” into Zion’s like he has proposed, that he get his group to walk around the shops in Springdale and buy something to help Utah’s citizens. Neither the park rangers or Utah’s businesses deserve this mess.

      • Shemp October 10, 2013 at 3:48 pm

        It’s not the locals that spend the money in Zion and other places, it’s the tourist who come from all over the world. A simple one time walk around will not do anything substantial. As far as a quote from John McCain goes, it means nothing. Who and what is he to analyze this situation? He’s part of the problem just as all of our so called leaders are. I have no sympathy for the Rangers as many are being used as paid thugs to enforce economic hardship on local businesses. They are also getting paid any back pay for their work so they are not sacrificing anything.
        In order for our local economy to rebound, the Parks have to be opened. It doesn’t matter who anyone thinks is at fault because it punishes everyone, Dem, Rep. or independant..
        You have your opinions and want to point a finger at one side when it’s much bigger than that. Of course, I also have mine but putting down others for standing up for what the believe in will not do anything but polarize the masses to the point we are fighting among ourselves and the real issues go unsolved. We as The People must demand more from our government and hold all of them accountable.

        • Karen October 10, 2013 at 5:50 pm

          Visit any National Park and you will hear languages from all over the world. Obviously, most of the tourist dollars do come from tourists and now they are being shut out through no fault of their own. My suggestion that Sen. Urquhart spend some money in Springdale was an attempt to dissuade him from encouraging others to trespass and cause even more headaches for the park rangers. Nothing more.

          Your comment about Park Rangers as “paid thugs” is disrepectful and untrue. The Park Rangers are citizens of Utah and are part of the economy of Utah. I question the supposed quote made by a Park Ranger in another state about their directive to punish the public. Rangers aren’t getting paid either, and, as of now Congress is dithering about it. Only time will tell on that.

  • Craig October 10, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    “. In a letter to President Barack Obama, Gov. Herbert said Utah had lost $100 million from tourism generated revenue so far.”

    I’m sure Gary will find a way to get the money back. Maybe through gas, oil and fracking leases,
    Or, he can set up a stand and sell red rocks in a hat labeled sucker, I mean seer stones.

  • Bretticus October 10, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Wow, what a bunch toxic commenters in here. Amazing people have to invent strife when they hear good news.

    Good move for the Obama administration and Governor Herbert. It means there’s a glimmer of hope that there’s a tiny bit of compassion left in Washington.

    • My Evil Twin October 10, 2013 at 7:24 pm

      Compassion in Washington? Man, what are you smoking, anyway. They have no compassion for anyone, other than themselves. They are not responding out of compassion, but out of the realization that they are going to get their butts kicked out of office at the next election. Of course Obummer can’t run again anyway, but I’m sure he would like to continue to find a way of making some money. Not that he will need it of course. . .

  • Mary October 10, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Thank You Bretticus! My sentiments exactly. This is what happens when sheltered and narrow minded people when they try to think.

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