National Parks in Utah to reopen on state funding

The state of Utah has struck a deal with the Department of the Interior to reopen five national parks and three other sites, and pay for it out of state coffers.

By Gabrielle Levy
Delicate Arch glows in the late afternoon sun in Arches National Park, Utah, August 3, 2006. (UPI Photo/A.J. Sisco) | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/09b3e55a1c2daa7077bdb651fa261206/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Delicate Arch glows in the late afternoon sun in Arches National Park, Utah, August 3, 2006. (UPI Photo/A.J. Sisco) | License Photo

(UPI) -- Utah has had enough of the federal government shutdown shuttering the state's five national parks, and has decided to step in to reopen them.

The state came to an agreement with U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to open all five parks, as well as three other federally run sites, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday.


"Utah agrees to pay the National Park Service up to $1.67 million -- $166,572 per day -- to re-open eight national sites in Utah for up to 10 days," an official state press release explains. "If the federal government shutdown ends before then, the State will receive a refund of unused monies."

Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion national parks, along with Natural Bridges and Cedar Breaks national monuments and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area will all be reopened by Saturday.

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Officials estimate Utah's national parks rake in $100 million in October alone, a month that is generally among the most profitable of the year because of an influx of tourists thanks to gorgeous fall weather.

"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. "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."


The state will transfer the promised funds to the Department of the Interior, which will then notify "site-specific" workers to return to their jobs. It says it would be able to make additional funds available if the shutdown continues longer than the 10 days already paid for.

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Congress will have the ability to refund the state the money spent, according to the agreement between the state and the administration, but is under no obligation to do so.

Still, Herbert's office said, "the governor has engaged Utah's congressional delegation to actively pursue timely repayment to state coffers."

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