Utah loves its national parks. And it shows. In a landmark deal with the Department of the Interior, the state of Utah agreed to use its own funding to reopen its national parks this weekend. And other states are taking notice.
Utah has invested heavily in its national parks recently, according to CNN. Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion national parks; Natural Bridges and Cedar Breaks national monuments; and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area have all been featured in state-sponsored tourism ads. And Utah wants them to reopen — so much so that Utah Gov. Gary Herbert was willing to use state funds to ensure that those national parks and monuments would be open for business this weekend.
"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 statement. "I commend Secretary Jewell [Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell]for being open to Utah's solution, and the world should know Utah is open for business and visitors are welcome."
The deal, inked between Herbert and Jewell, means that all state governments can reopen their national parks if they use state money to do so.
"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.
If the shutdown lasts longer than the additional 10 days accounted for in the agreement, Herbert insists the state would be able to make additional payments to keep the parks open.
Herbert is banking on Congressional reimbursement once the government shutdown is lifted, telling reporters "the governor has engaged Utah's congressional delegation to actively pursue timely repayment to state coffers."
It's a gamble that other states — especially Arizona, which says it has enough money to open part of Grand Canyon National Park — are pondering.
Learn more about the agreement in the video below:
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