Governor Gary Herbert asked President Obama on Tuesday to authorize the use of state and private funds to reopen Utah’s five national parks. Today, the federal government had an answer.
Utah has been given the go-ahead to work out a plan to reopen the parks during the government shutdown.
"Sally Jewell, who is the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, and the governor spoke this morning, and Secretary Jewell indicated that Utah can proceed to develop a plan for the reopening of the parks," said Ally Isom, Herbert's deputy for communications.
Isom said Utah would have to use its own money to reopen the parks and call back park workers. Zion National Park alone costs $50,000 a day to operate.
Isom said the governor will have to work with state legislators and Utah’s congressional delegation to appropriate the money, but they consider this to be a step in the right direction.
"We consider this a major breakthrough," she said. "The governor is demonstrating that the state of Utah can find solutions, and we can work with the administration and we can find bipartisan options that'll free up these local communities from this impasse."
It’s not clear right now if the federal government will reimburse Utah after the shutdown ends. Utah’s national parks have a huge impact on local economies, and the governor’s office wants them reopened.
"These local communities are simply hemorrhaging economically, and we're just trying to do what we can to get them back on their feet," Isom said.
Isom said according to the Department of Interior, Utah’s parks can reopen in 24 hours once the state has a plan in place.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Eric is from Las Vegas, Nevada and studies broadcast journalism at Utah State. In joining the Utah Public Radio family, he has now delved into each of the "Big Three" of journalism: print, television and radio. His dream is to someday live and report the news in Chicago, Illinois (or wherever his career takes him.) In addition to reporting for UPR, Eric is the copy editor at the Utah Statesman and contributes to Aggie TV News.