Utah gets around federal shutdown, will open national parks

(Times photo - Krista Allen)

The National Park Service entered an agreement with the State of Utah to reopen eight national parks including Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Grand Canyon also to open this weekend, under deal struck between Arizona and Interior Department

By Krista Allen
Navajo Times

PAGE, Oct. 11, 2013

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Leaders in Utah say they found a way to get around the government shutdown.

Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert announced today that a deal has been reached with the Department of Interior to reopen the State’s five national parks, Cedar Breaks and Natural Bridges national monuments, and the Glen Canyon Nation Recreation Area.

“It’s very unique,” said superintendent Todd W. Brindle of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Due to the lack of appropriations from Congress, the Department of Interior was forced to close all national parks across the country last week and furlough more than 20,000 National Park Service employees that ensure the safety of visitors and the security of the resources.

In response to the economic impacts that the park closures are having on many communities and local businesses, Secretary of the Interior Jewell announced yesterday that she will consider agreements with Governors who indicate an interest and ability to fully fund National Park Service (NPS) personnel to reopen national parks in their states.

Under the terms of the agreement, Utah will donate funds to the National Park Service for the sole purpose of enabling NPS employees to reopen and manage Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Captiol Reef National Park, Cedar Breaks National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument, and Zion National Park.

Herbert signed an agreement with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and NPS whereby Utah agrees to pay the NPS up to $1.67 million, $166,572 per day to reopen eight national sites in Utah for up to 10 days.

“We just got that word this morning that, that agreement was signed,” said Brindle. “We are scrambling, and we just opened up at noon today. We hope to have, with limited services, by tomorrow morning, we expect to have full services open with all the staff on.”

Wahweap, Antelope Point, Bullfrog and Halls Crossing will all be open, and mussel inspections are in place, according to NPS. The Colorado River will be open from the Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry, but not from Lees Ferry to the Grand Canyon.

Utah’s initial funding for the agreement will come from existing resources within the Division of State Parks of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Further action may be warranted by the Utah State Legislature in a special session expected for next Wednesday on Oct. 16. The Governor’s Office continues to work closely with legislative leaders to make DNR whole and identify optimal solutions.

If the government shutdown continues beyond 10 days, Brindle says Utah can make additional payments to keep the national parks and monuments open.

“We’re very excited,” said Brindle. “We’re a service organization. We’re here to manage the public lands for the next generation. We’re very excited that the State of Utah and the Secretary of Interior have come to this agreement so we can open up our parks for the enjoyment of the visitors.”

(In a separate deal between the state of Arizona and the Interior Department, Grand Canyon National Park is expected to open this weekend, The Arizona Republic reported. Arizona will pay $651,000 for a weeks’ worth of costs for re-opening the entire park. The money will come from a mix of state and “other” dollars, Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder said, including funds contributed by Tusayan businesses.)

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