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10/10/2013 1:10:00 PM
States may be able to reopen some national parks

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration said Thursday it will allow states to use their own money to reopen some national parks that have been closed because of the government shutdown.

Governors in at least four states have asked for authority to reopen national parks within their borders because of the economic impacts caused by the park closures.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the government will consider offers to pay for park operations, but will not surrender control of national parks or monuments to the states.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said his state would accept the federal offer to reopen Utah's five national parks.

Utah would have to use its own money to staff the parks, and it will cost $50,000 a day to operate just one of them, Zion National Park, said Herbert's deputy chief of staff, Ally Isom.

It was not clear if the federal government would reimburse Utah later. The Utah Legislature would have to convene in special session to appropriate the money, Isom said.

Governors of South Dakota, Arizona and Colorado have made similar requests to reopen some or all of their parks. It was not clear Thursday if they would accept Jewell's offer.

October is a peak month for tourism in many parts of the West.

Herbert, a Republican, said in a letter Tuesday to President Barack Obama that the shutdown of national parks has been "devastating" to individuals and businesses that rely on park operations for their livelihood. Utah is home to five national parks, including Zion, Bryce and Arches, which attract visitors from around the world.

"The current federally mandated closure is decimating the bottom line of bed-and-breakfast business owners and operators in Torrey (Utah), outfitters at Bryce Canyon City and restaurant owners in Moab," Herbert wrote.

He estimated the economic impact of the federal government shutdown on Utah at about $100 million.

Blake Androff, a spokesman for Jewell, said the Interior Department will consider agreements with governors who "indicate an interest and ability to fully fund National Park Service personnel to re-open national parks in their states."

Decisions about which parks to reopen and for how long have not been made, Androff said. All 401 park service units nationwide are eligible for state donations, Androff said.

Figures compiled by a coalition of retired park service workers indicate that some 700,000 people a day would have been visiting the parks and that the surrounding areas are losing $76 million in visitor spending per day.

The park service said it is losing $450,000 per day in revenue from entrance fees and other in-park expenditures, such as campground fees and boat rentals.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the Obama administration was playing "political games" with national parks.

"Why now, after more than a week of refusing to allow states to pay to keep national parks open, is the Obama Administration suddenly reversing course?" Hastings asked. "It appears they are truly just making this up as they go along."

States and communities whose economic livelihoods are tied to national parks "deserve better than this administration's political games to make this shutdown as painful as possible," Hastings said.

In Wyoming, Gov. Matt Mead's office said the state would not pay to reopen two heavily visited national parks or the Devil's Tower national monument.

"Wyoming cannot bail out the federal government and we cannot use state money to do the work of the federal government," Mead spokesman Renny MacKay said Thursday

Meanwhile, the park service said it is reopening to tourists a highway pull-out area that can be used to view and photograph Mount Rushmore from a distance following complaints that the agency was intentionally blocking viewing areas.

The national memorial in South Dakota has been closed because of the government shutdown. Hundreds of tourists have complained that park rangers have placed cones along an area highway to stop drivers from pulling over to take photos of the iconic monument, which features the stone-carved faces of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

The park service never intended to ruin anyone's view of Mount Rushmore, said Patricia Trap, deputy director of the agency's Midwest region. The agency has a limited number of rangers available during the shutdown, and some pull-out areas were blocked with cones out of security concerns because there weren't enough rangers to monitor those areas, she said.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, October 14, 2013
Article comment by: Amaryllis Smith

You can do all the research you want, Fact is the state's pay to the federal govt., then the federal government holds the state hostage threatening to withhold any refunds of monies if they refuse to comply with the rules, regulations and everything federal level wants in order to control the people of the country. This practice has to be stopped and power returned to each and every state and the people of said states!

Posted: Saturday, October 12, 2013
Article comment by: Origional Kingman Resident

"we are supposed to pay for it when we already paid our Federal taxes. "

The Grand Canyon has an average of 18,000 visitors a day, who spend an average of 1million dollars per day in AZ. These visitors pay state sales tax on this 1 million dollars they spend each day.

There are over 7,000 AZ citizens whose jobs rely on the people who visit the Grand Canyon. These AZ workers pay state income tax on their wages and state sales tax when they spend their money. If they are working, they are not relying on the state to pay unemployment and other benefits to them.

Any other questions?

Posted: Saturday, October 12, 2013
Article comment by: Rick Sherwood

If we were a sovereign state, that is we owned our own land, this all would be a non issue.

Posted: Friday, October 11, 2013
Article comment by: Doing Research

@az mac

Are you serious? Do you not know that AZ receives more in Federal cash than it pays in?

This was established in 2011. Where have you been?

My taxes from a blue state subsidize keeping National Parks in AZ open for everyone. How can you even comment about this when you don't understand how it works?

I shouldn't be surprised - Here's Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas (who signed a letter with 80 GOP lawmakers requesting to shutdown the government) berating a Park Ranger for doing her job. He participated in shutting down the government without even understanding the consequences of his actions.

Here's the letter he co-signed with 80 out of 435 Congressmen

The guy in the bike helmet who had to explain to the Congressmen WHY a national monument was closed? Peace Corps HQ staff member on furlough.

169 words

Posted: Friday, October 11, 2013
Article comment by: Amaryllis Smith

All states should take back Their Parks and quit giving the monies to the federal government, hire people who live in the state to work the parks which is better than funding haircuts, transportation cost for congressmen who live on the east coast to get from home to work?, the work out gyms and all the waste and fraud that goes on in D.C.!

Posted: Friday, October 11, 2013
Article comment by: concerned citizen

Ref: Fox Hound

That's 10, I repeat 10 houses Sen McCain has, and that's w/o counting the condos his wife owns.

Posted: Friday, October 11, 2013
Article comment by: Linda Athens

"Republicans love to cut our budget on the backs of the poor"?


Oh, did the libs finally decide to even HAVE a budget this year, unlike the previous years?

We are 17 Trillion in debt now, ONE-THIRD OF WHICH is on obama's watch which is incredible.

And now they want one trillion more, not to pay anything. It will simply be another trillion the libs can spend.

That 17 Trillion is unsustainable - we will NOT be able to pay it off so it will fall on our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren's backs to do so. Does that even remotely bother you? Or do you simply not give a damn about our progeny as apparently obama doesn't either.

Here's just a smidge of the insanity of this administration. After preaching about tightening our belts, obama then chartered a special plane to fly his dog up to Martha's Vineyard, apparently a muslim thing.

Michelle Obama and her exercise, gardening thing - a stamp was brought out showing her and kids doing flips, etc. Stamps, stamps, everywhere. Realizing they had not put helmets on the kids, they recalled every last one of them. Being tough, I actually cartwheeled without a helmet.

Posted: Friday, October 11, 2013
Article comment by: az mac

When this country was founded the people had 100% of the power. They gave 10% of their power to the states and the states gave the federal government 1% of their 10%. The states have the power over the federal government.

Posted: Friday, October 11, 2013
Article comment by: az mac

The government gets the money from the states. The states just need to keep the money and quit sending it to a corrupt government.

Posted: Friday, October 11, 2013
Article comment by: The Fox Hound

So now Brewer wants to open the state parks her party caused to close in the first place and we are supposed to pay for it when we already paid our Federal taxes. Brilliant. Hey Maybe Ted Crus will chip in. Or maybe McCain could sell one of his 6 houses and pony up a little. Or we could all do our jobs and reopen our govt. Republicans love to cut our budget on the backs of the poor but have no problem giving money to large corps. What a surprise.

Posted: Friday, October 11, 2013
Article comment by: Jimi Lightfoot

Funding for these parks will take care of itself if left alone by the federals.

None want donate or invest into our parks when you have the feds involved.

Or we could let the feds take over all property and parks, let them run the show alone and see what happens.

After all they've done such a good job with other things like the Post Office, Obama nausium.

Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2013
Article comment by: Anson's Moore

Arizona can't even effectively operate and fund our own state parks, so exactly where would the funds come from to fund our three national parks, fourteen national monuments and six national forests?

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