During the 2013 government shutdown, the parks and Park Service-operated attractions on the National Mall, including the World War II memorial, were closed, causing Republican uproar.
By Ben Lefebvre
There is still no agreement on passing a funding plan before the Saturday night deadline.
According to the Department of the Interior, responsible for managing the National Park Service, essential operations such as law enforcement, fire control, emergency response, and power maintenance will continue at the majority of the nation’s 400+ national parks. However, employees who provide visitor assistance will be placed on furlough during the shutdown, resulting in the closure of these parks to the public.
The Department of the Interior stated in a document that at various [National Park] locations throughout the nation, gates will be secured, visitor centers will not be open, and many park rangers will be on unpaid leave. As a result, it is recommended that the public refrain from visiting these sites during the time of suspended funding in order to safeguard the preservation of natural and cultural resources, as well as ensure the safety of visitors.
However, a few of the country’s most famous parks will stay accessible. The Department of the Interior stated that state governments have the option to utilize their own finances or seek funding from alternate sources to maintain the operations of specific parks. Governors Katie Hobbs of Arizona and Spencer Cox of Utah have confirmed that they will take this approach and intend to keep the Grand Canyon, Zion, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands national parks running at minimal capacities.
During the 2013 government shutdown, all parks and Park Service-operated attractions on the National Mall, including the World War II memorial, were closed. This sparked anger among Republicans.
The Interior Department did not provide specifics about its plans for individual parks. However, it did state that parks with areas that are physically accessible to the public, such as park roads, lookouts, trails, campgrounds, and open-air memorials, will continue to be open for public use. This includes the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, D.C.
According to the Interior, the levels of staffing and services, such as maintenance of restrooms and sanitation, trash collection, road maintenance, campground operations, and emergency operations may differ and are not promised.
The NPS website reports that the National Park Service offers a variety of attractions, ranging from the vast Grand Canyon and Smokey Mountains to the smaller 192-acre Gateway Arch located in St. Louis. In 2022, over 312 million visitors contributed approximately $24 billion to local economies by visiting National Parks.
The decision is drastically different from how the Trump administration handled the shutdown that began on December 22, 2018 and lasted for 35 days. During that time, several parks were open without staff, resulting in significant damage to Joshua Tree National Park and other locations. The Department of the Interior is currently working to repair the damage caused during this period.
The Interior Department stated that parks may continue to operate as long as they can obtain financial support from foundations or other means.
Republicans from western states, such as Senator from Utah.Mike Lee
I am concerned about the possibility of a government shutdown leading to the closure of national parks. During a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing on Thursday, it was emphasized that such a shutdown would have a significant economic impact on states. The park service website reports that in 2022, visitors to national parks in Utah spent $17 billion, making it the third-highest grossing state, after California and North Carolina.
Lee expressed concern to Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau during the hearing about the significant financial consequences that closing national parks would have on people and communities throughout the nation. He also noted that states such as Utah may be required to use their own funds to ensure national parks remain open.
Beaudreau stated that he had spoken with the governors of Utah and Wyoming to address the issue. However, he also attributed the responsibility to House Republicans who have not been able to approve a budget that would fund the government.
Beaudreau advised Lee that it would be preferable to avoid government and park closures.