Despite the partial government shutdown, three out of Utah’s five national parks will stay open through the holidays thanks to funding from the State of Utah. The state’s most popular parks, Arches, Zion and Bryce Canyon, will remain open with basic visitor services during the federal shutdown.
Details of the agreement were finalized on Friday, Dec. 21 when Gov. Gary Herbert authorized a total of $80,000 to fund the three parks for the rest of the year, reported the Salt Lake Tribune. The National Park Service notified states that they would not be reimbursed for financing the operation of the parks during the shutdown.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah gave more than $1 million to keep the national parks open during the 2013 federal government shutdown. Though it was the first state to open its parks during that shutdown, Utah’s economy still took a hit. A statement from the Utah Office of Tourism said, “Economists estimate the 2013 shutdown cost Utah’s tourism economy $30 million.”
Unlike the 16-day shutdown in 2013, updated contingency plans for the Department of the Interior will keep all national parks and monuments open while the government is stalled.
However, the NPS cautioned visitors that services like bathrooms, trash collection and maintenance will not be provided. Capitol Reef and Canyonlands national parks will be open during the shutdown under those conditions, said Utah Office of Tourism Managing Director Vicki Varela. “We take great pride in our hospitality and want visitors who come to Utah’s Mighty Five national parks during the Christmas holiday to have a safe, clean and enjoyable experience,” said Herbert. “Many travelers have planned their visit for months in advance and have traveled from all over the world to be here. We want them to return home with memories of magnificent vistas and welcoming people, not locked doors.”
Tom Adams, director of Utah’s Office of Outdoor Recreation, said, “This is the third time this year we have experienced a shutdown. While the federal government faces another impasse, the State of Utah and Utah’s federal land managers are committed to safe, high-quality access for all visitors to America’s public lands.”
It is still unclear when the shutdown will end as Democrats and the Trump administration struggle to reach an agreement over the President’s demands for border wall funding. Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said during a Fox News interview on Sunday that “it is very possible that the shutdown will go beyond the 28th and into the new Congress.”
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that unlike other shutdowns, there is no urgency in Washington to resolve the dispute and reopen the government.
Top house Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California echoed Mulvaney’s prediction. “Until President Trump can publicly commit to a bipartisan resolution, there will be no agreement before January when the new House Democratic Majority will swiftly pass legislation to reopen government,” she wrote in a letter to other Democrats.
Unlike the two previous shutdowns this year, the one that began on Saturday includes only part of the government, resulting in a lapse in funding for departments and agencies that make up about 25 percent of the federal government. The Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, the Interior Department, the State Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development were all impacted by the shutdown, whereas other important government functions, including the departments of defense, health and human services and veterans affairs, have already been fully funded through September.
Just because there is a lapse in funding, however, does not mean all of the departments’ activities immediately stop. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue detailed which functions of the U.S. Department of Agriculture would continue during the shutdown. “There may be a lapse in funding for the federal government, but that will not relieve USDA of its responsibilities for safeguarding life and property through the critical services we provide,” said Perdue. “Our employees work hard every day to benefit our customers and the farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers who depend on our programs. During a shutdown, we will leverage our existing resources as best we can to continue to provide the top-notch service people expect.”
USDA activities that will continue in the short term include inspection services, Forest Service law enforcement and emergency response duties, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and child nutrition programs. On the other hand, activities like rural development loans and grants, timber sales and the operation of all recreation sites in the national forest system will not continue.
According to USA Today, approximately 800,000 federal workers are impacted by the shutdown. Those who are not deemed “essential” will be furloughed while others will be forced to work without pay for the time being. Congress is expected to approve retroactive pay for federal employees, but when their next paychecks will come remains uncertain.