Utah national parks will stay open if there’s a government shutdown

Sep 19, 2023, 8:30 PM

Side by side images of Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands Capitol Reef, and Arches National Parks in Utah, wh...

L-R, Zion National Park (Associated Press, Utah Office of Tourism), Bryce National Park (Laura Seitz, Deseret News), Canyonlands National Park (Ravell Call, Deseret News), Capitol Reef National Park (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Arches National Park, (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News). The Mighty Five will remain open despite a government shutdown according to two Utah lawmakers.

(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY —  Two legislative leaders in Utah said they won’t let the national parks within Utah’s boundaries close during a government shutdown, which could happen October 1, 2023, unless Congress passes the appropriations bills that fund the U.S. government.

If lawmakers don’t pass the bills, the government “shuts down.” Meaning, that federal agencies will stop all non-essential functions until Congress acts, typically with temporary spending bills.

For the five national parks inside Utah, that could mean officials shut down visitor centers. Campsites may not be staffed, and restrooms may not be available. 

This undated photo released bAngels Landing in Zion National Park  (AP Photo/Utah Office of Tourism, Wm. Floyd Holdman) Bryce Canyon National Park is pictured on Thursday, May 18, 2023.  (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park. (Ravell Call) The Temple of the Sun is framed in rocks at the base of the Temple of the Moon in the Cathedral Valley of Capitol Reef National Park (Ravell Call) The sun sets as a rainstorm blows over Delicate Arch in Arches National Park near Moab (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

But Utah lawmakers say they aren’t going to let the park visitors or the communities that depend on them, suffer.

“We’ll keep Utah open the best we can,” said Utah Senate President Stuart Adams. “We’ll respond like we did last time, and try to keep an economy moving and be responsible with how we handle that.”

House Speaker Brad Wilson said some of the local economies are solely dependent on tourists visiting the national parks.

“We have got rural Utah, these towns around these national parks that depend tremendously on the economies related to tourism,” Wilson said.

Both Wilson and Adams faced a similar dilemma when the national parks were shut down between December 2018, and January 2019, the longest such shutdown in U.S. history.

At that time, Utah spent about $66,000 which was never paid back. Wilson and Adams said they don’t know how much a closure would cost the state this time.

“We do need the people back there to do the hard work and make hard decisions,”Wilson said. “We’ll be ready for what comes.”

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Utah national parks will stay open if there’s a government shutdown