Bill Would Keep National Parks Open During Government Shutdowns

A Park Police officer watches as a National Park Service employee posts a sign on a barricade closing access to the Lincoln Memorial on Oct. 1, the day the government shutdown began. A Park Police officer watches as a National Park Service employee posts a sign on a barricade closing access to the Lincoln Memorial on Oct. 1, the day the government shutdown began. Carolyn Kaster/AP

A Western Republican lawmaker wants to make sure national parks stay open during future government shutdowns.

Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah introduced legislation on Wednesday -- less than a week after the 16-day government shutdown ended -- that would allow states to fund the operations of national parks, monuments and other facilities related to tourism, mining, timber or general transportation if there is a lapse in congressional appropriations. The Interior Department would be required to reimburse states for those costs within 90 days of the federal government reopening.

“The tourism, mining, timber and transportation industries lost millions of dollars each day that the government was shut down,” said Stewart in a statement. “That’s absolutely crushing to communities that rely on these industries. The PARC [Provide Access and Retain Continuity] Act would ensure that an agreement is in place to allow states to quickly continue funding and operating federal facilities and programs that are vital to their economies, if they so choose.”

Republican lawmakers criticized the closure of national parks and monuments during the recent shutdown. One incident involved Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, confronting a Park Ranger at the World War II memorial on the second day of the shutdown, telling her she and her agency should “be ashamed” of not allowing access to the monument. Neugebauer said he has since apologized for his outburst.

Utah, along with Arizona, Colorado and South Dakota, struck a deal with Interior during the October shutdown to reopen national parks and sites in their states.

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