National Parks in Utah directed to use 'reserve funds' to stay open during shutdown

In a letter to Congressman Ben McAdams, acting Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, directed the National Park Service to have parks use their own reserve funds to pay for services during the partial government shutdown. (Photo: KUTV)

In a letter to Congressman Ben McAdams, acting Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, directed the National Park Service to have parks use their own reserve funds to pay for services during the partial government shutdown.

The decision came after McAdams wrote a letter to Bernhardt on Saturday asking the secretary invoke an exemption in the Antideficiency Act that allows for federal funding for parks over safety issues and concerns.

Bernhardt responded by saying after weighing the options, he would opt to have the parks pay for the services for now.

A portion of park entry ticket sales go into a reserve fund. It is that fund Bernhardt asked parks to dip into to pay for restroom sanitation, trash pickup, road maintenance, campground operations, law enforcement, emergency operations and staffing entry gates. The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act allows for the National Park Service to use these funds for a variety of specified purposes.

“It's really kind of a bare-bones solution, but it will get us by for a little while,” McAdams said on Monday from his office in Washington D.C.

In Bernhardt’s letter to McAdams, he writes, “I have determined we must immediately take specific actions.”

For his part, McAdams said he voted to end the government shutdown.

“Short-term solutions are the best we've got right now, as the impasse continues and the government is not yet open," McAdams said.

Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks were slated to get help from non-profit organizations raising money to keep the parks open. As of Monday, all parks have been directed to use their own lifelines, if they have them.

Bernhardt has directed the parks to use the reserve funds until they reach $0. The secretary says he'll consider using an exemption in the law to provide more resources, if parks use up all their money.

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