Utah will keep national parks open in event of federal government shutdown
With the government shutdown imminent, state officials said they are prepared to keep Utah’s national parks open.
“Our first priority is watching out for visitors who have traveled from all over the world to have once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” said Vicki Varela, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism. “We are also mindful of the communities that rely on the visitor economy, and of course, protecting the natural environment of these beautiful places.”
Utah plans to provide earmarked funds to cover basic operating expenses to various national park foundations affiliated with the national parks. The foundations would not operate the parks, but transfer state funds to the parks to underwrite basic operations. Essential services that would be covered include visitor centers, permitting, trash pickup and bathroom cleanup. Discussions are also underway with the Department of Interior to ensure plans are in place for shuttle operations in Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks.
“In Utah, we have the best economy in the United States, arguably in the nation and we intend to keep it that way,” said Ryan Starks, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity. “We have encumbered $5 million to ensure the state’s National Parks remain open, despite the government shutdown.”
The Utah Office of Tourism listed examples of the impact of visitation to the state’s national parks on tourism:
- According to US Travel, the shutdown would cost the U.S. travel economy as much as $140 million a day and impact access to the national parks and federal lands.
- According to the 2022 National Park Service Visitor Spending Effects Report, Utah is among the top three states for total economic output from national park visitor spending, with an astounding $2.6 billion contribution to the state’s economy.
- Utah also ranks among the top three states for jobs supported by national park economic output, with 23,300 livelihoods depending on the visitor economy.
In addition, Utah’s 46 state parks are open, staffed, and ready for visitors, tourism officials said.
“Tourism plays a vital role in sustaining Utah’s rural economies, and our state,” said State Parks Director Jeff Rasmussen. “Our parks take pride in facilitating visitor experiences. Our doors are always open.”
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