Utah’s national parks will reopen despite shutdown

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By Lesile Bentz, CNN

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


Utah will reopen its five national parks by Saturday, as well as three other nationally run locations.

Utah’s Governor Gary Herbert made the announcement Thursday, saying a deal had been reached with the U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

“Utah agrees to pay the National Park Service (NPS) up to $1.67 million— $166,572 per day—to re-open eight national sites in Utah for up to 10 days. If the federal government shutdown ends before then, the State will receive a refund of unused monies” an official press statement explained.

The deal would reopen Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion national parks. The other three locations that will be opened are Natural Bridges and Cedar Breaks national monuments, as well as Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

“Utah’s national parks are the backbone of many rural economies and hard-working Utahns are paying a heavy price for this shutdown,” Herbert said in the released statement. “I commend Secretary Jewell for being open to Utah’s solution, and the world should know Utah is open for business and visitors are welcome.”

October is an especially profitable month for Utah’s national parks, since optimal weather attracts a high volume of tourists. Typically, officials estimate a $100 million yield for the month, so the parks’ closures would have had an especially high impact on the state.

The Department of the Interior is now awaiting a transfer of funds from Utah, at which point it will notify “site-specific” personnel to return to work. The process of opening the parks after receiving the money should take some time, but in a statement from the governor’s office, the state anticipates all sites should be “fully operational by Saturday”.

In the event that the federal government shutdown drags on longer than the 10 days that have been accounted for, the state of Utah insists it would be able to make additional payments to keep the parks operational.

The agreement between Herbert and Jewell stipulates that the money spent by the state can be reimbursed with Congressional approval. However, as with other funds spent during the shutdown, Congress is under no obligation to refund the bill.

It seems Herbert is quite intent on pursuing repayment, with his office telling reporters “the Governor has engaged Utah’s congressional delegation to actively pursue timely repayment to state coffers.”

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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  • Curious

    Part of the CR and debt ceiling negotiations is the offer from Republicans to continue the current sequestration level spending as part of the overall compromise. Bob Woodward said some time back that sequestration was Obama's and Lew's idea, but Progressives weren't and aren't happy with current sequestration level spending. Will Obama accept the current sequestration level spending offer – or not? Just wondering…

  • Diane

    I have to question any media report that continues to call this current situation a "Shutdown" since
    83% of all federal employees are at their jobs and getting paid. In reality its a Slowdown.
    At least now we know that at least 16 percent of all federal employees could be considered." non-essential." It also has made it apparent that the folks who have been screaming term limits are dead-on and we should try to eliminate career politicians who have no other job skills other than to campaign for public office. Including the ones in the Oval Office. Its time for real leadership on both sides of the aisle so while media reports that the Democrats are winning in the polls or that the President is smug………….neither of them have anything to be proud of.