Utah national parks, others, to get funding from fees during government shutdown
(KUTV) — Utah's five national parks will get more funding during the shutdown of the federal government.
Recreational fee funds will be used to maintain services to the parks that are deemed necessary, according to a letter from Acting Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, to Utah's newly elected Rep. Ben McAdams. Bernhardt issued a memo to the National Parks Service, ordering the use of the fees.
The funds will be used to pay for:
- clean up and maintenance of restrooms
- trash collection
- road maintenance, including plowing
- campground operations
- law enforcement
- emergency operations
- staffing entrance gates to provide safety information
"This approach means that many of the burdens being born by local communities should be addressed by NPS personnel within days, particularly at the bigger parks such as Arches National Park," Bernhardt wrote.
Funding for the federal government stopped on Dec. 20 when U.S. lawmakers failed to pass new funding laws. A dispute about a border wall is a key issue. President Donald Trump is demanding $5 billion for a portion of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
If the shutdown continues and the recreation fee-funds are empties, Bernhardt said he would need to make additional decision, referring to options McAdams suggested in a Jan. 5 letter to Bernhardt, that he thanked him for.
"The amount of assistance and support provided by the State of Utah, local communities, nonprofits, volunteers and others through this period has been amazing.
"I fundamentally believe the steps we are taking will better ensure our parks are protected for future generations, while still providing appropriate opportunities for the enjoyment of the American people today."
The memorandum from Bernhardt to the National Parks Service states that parks with available balances should immediately use them for the services listed above until they have run out of money. It also requests the NPS to provide a list of such parks immediately.
It also requests a list of parks that don't charge fees or don't have balances or who have been challenged by current contingency plans.
"Once I am provided the list, I will work with the Deputy Director to direct the expenditure of fees to promptly address those challenges," the memo reads.
The letter and the memo are included below.