DOI responds to request to open Utah’s National Parks

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UPDATED: Read the response from the US Department of the Interior below:

Congressman Bishop:

Thank you for the thoughtful letter dated January 4, 2019 regarding the need to “resume operations” at our National Parks during this period of lapse appropriations. The amount of assistance and support provided by the state of Utah, local communities, non-profits, volunteers, and others through this period has been amazing.

The Administration’s understanding of the challenges presented is significant. I greatly appreciated your letter, because it came just as I was completing my review of this important issue. Over the last few days, I have carefully reviewed the National Park Service’s Contingency Plan and the legal grounding of both their current plan and a different approach. 

Yesterday, I directed the Park Service to modify their plan in a way that better meets our dual responsibilities of conserving park resources and providing for the enjoyment of the American people. Last night, a modified plan was approved by the Office of Management and Budget. the National Park Service is communicating with various parks regarding this change over the coming hours and day.

I have enclosed the full copy of my directive, as well as a statement provided by the National Park Service today as an attachment to this letter. The directive provides for the use of recreation fee funds, where available, to clean up and maintain: restrooms and sanitation. trash collection, road maintenance – which includes plowing, campground operations, law enforcement and emergency operations, and staff entrance gates as necessary to provide critical safety information. 

This approach means that many of the burdens being born by local communities should be addressed by Park Service personnel within days, particularly at the bigger parks such as Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. If a prolonged lapse period occurs to the point that these fee accounts reach zero, I will need to make some additional decisions, and when doing so, I will certainly consider the option you suggested. 

I fundamentally believe the steps we are taking today will better ensure our parks are protected for future generations, while still providing appropriate opportunities for the enjoyment of the American people today.

Respectfully Submitted,

David Bernhardt

Acting Secretary

United States Department of the Interior

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ORIGINAL STORY:

WASHINGTON, D.C. (ABC4 News) – Utah’s House Republicans have signed a letter requesting the Department of Interior to help reopen five of Utah’s National Parks. 

Rep. Rob Bishop (UT-01), top Republican on the Natural Resources Committee, has delivered a letter to the Acting Secretary of the Interior requesting they take emergency measures to resume operations at Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks.

In the letter drafted on Friday, he said they believe the DOI has the ability to do more than they have during the partial shutdown and that the State of Utah has been able to reallocate money from other projects to help underwrite the costs at the most visited parks.

The letter was signed by Bishop as well as Utah Representatives Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart, & John Curtis. 

You can read the full letter below: 

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