The Obama administration has gone well out of their way to use our national parks and monuments as a bizarre and petty political bludgeon in the current battle over the government-shutdown, and as plenty of local businesses and state officials have been lamenting, the recreation and tourism and vendors in these parks and monuments are often a crucial part of regional economies. Gov. Scott Walker gained badassery points when he pretty much told the feds to take a hike after the National Park Service issued a directive to close a bunch of Wisconsin’s state parks, but other governors have been trying to nudge the Obama administration into “allowing” them to keep the parks running with cash out of their own state coffers.
The magnanimosity is overwhelming me, via the AP:
Under pressure from governors, the Obama administration said Thursday it will allow some shuttered national parks to reopen – as long as states use their own money to pay for park operations.
Governors in at least four states have asked for authority to reopen national parks within their borders because of the economic impacts caused by the park closures. All 401 national park units – including such icons as the Grand Canyon and Yosemite and Zion national parks – have been closed since Oct. 1 because of the partial government shutdown. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees have been furloughed, and lawmakers from both parties have complained that park closures have wreaked havoc on nearby communities that depend on tourism.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the government will consider offers to use state money to resume park operations, but will not surrender control of national parks or monuments to the states. Jewell called on Congress to act swiftly to end the government shutdown so all parks can reopen.
Various governors are considering the offer, although the feds were clear that they shouldn’t count on any federal reimbursements for the expenses once the government reopens — but for some states, like Utah, the endeavor is probably worth its salt:
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said his state would accept the federal offer to reopen Utah’s five national parks.
Utah would have to use its own money to staff the parks, and it will cost $50,000 a day to operate just one of them, Zion National Park, said Herbert’s deputy chief of staff, Ally Isom.
Others, not so much.
In Wyoming, Gov. Matt Mead’s office said the state would not pay to reopen two heavily visited national parks or the Devil’s Tower national monument.
“Wyoming cannot bail out the federal government and we cannot use state money to do the work of the federal government,” Mead spokesman Renny MacKay said Thursday.
As I argued last week, however — while this is a most munificent gesture by the Obama administration — the federal government’s control over almost a third of the surface area of the United States is a costly and even foolish endeavor that too often results in poor environmental stewardship. Subjecting the management of our country’s natural treasures to the political swings and arrows of appropriations battles is a complete unnecessary methodology when examples of successful park management via public-private partnerships already abound.