Updated: Interior Department Might Let States Pay To Open National Parks
Editor's note: This updates with reaction from National Parks Conservation Association, word that Wyoming will not try to fund Yellowstone or Grand Teton national parks.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Thursday she would consider reaching a working agreement with states to open national parks within their borders if they have the financial resources to pay for the National Park Service staff in the parks.
"Responding to the economic impacts that the park closures are having on many communities and local businesses, Secretary Jewell 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," a release from the department said.
"The Interior Department will begin conversations about how to proceed as expeditiously as current limited resources allow," the release added. "We continue to call on Congress to act swiftly to enact appropriations for the entire government so that we can re-open all 401 national parks for the American people."
Utah Governor Gary Herbert earlier this week wrote President Obama with a request that he open Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Zion national parks. If the federal government couldn't afford to do that, the Utah governor went on in his letter, would the president allow Utah to use state and private funds to re-open them to the public?
Arizona officials also have broached the possibility of using state resources to reopen national parks in their states. In Wyoming, though, officials were not about to "bail out" the federal government.
"Wyoming cannot bail out the federal government and we cannot spend state money to do the work of the federal government,” Renny MacKay, spokesman for Gov. Matt Mead, who is traveling in Asia on state business, told the Yellowstone Gate website.
The news from Interior was welcomed, a bit, by the National Parks Conservation Association.
"The National Parks Conservation Association welcomes the Department of the Interior’s efforts to lessen the hardship of the government shutdown on local national park communities," said acting-President Theresa Pierno. "However, this makeshift approach is not a permanent solution. National parks are treasured by Americans nationwide; they not only protect our national heritage, but they are important to local economies, and Congress and the Administration have a responsibility to keep them open and adequately funded."