Today Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert announced a deal has been reached with the U.S. Department of Interior to re-open the State's five national parks, Cedar Breaks and Natural Bridges national monuments, and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
This evening the Governor signed an agreement with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the National Park Service (NPS) whereby Utah agrees to pay the NPS up to $1.67 million- $166,572 per day-to re-open eight national sites in Utah for up to 10 days. If the federal government shutdown ends before then, the State will receive a refund of unused monies.
"Utah's national parks are the backbone of many rural economies and hard-working Utahns are paying a heavy price for this shutdown," Governor Herbert said. "I commend Secretary Jewell for being open to Utah's solution, and the world should know Utah is open for business and visitors are welcome."
The national sites specified in the deal include Zion, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks, Glen Canyon and Natural Bridges.
Under the terms of the deal, the Interior Department will notify site-specific personnel to return to work as soon as the State of Utah wires the money. Secretary Jewell indicated to the Governor that within 24 hours of receiving wired funds, the national sites could be open and fully operational. At the time of this release, Utah expects parks to begin re-opening tomorrow and become fully operational by Saturday.
Utah's initial funding for the agreement will come from existing resources within the Division of State Parks of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Further action may be warranted by the Utah State Legislature in a special session expected for next Wednesday, October 16. The Governor's Office continues to work closely with legislative leaders to make DNR whole and identify optimal solutions. If the government shutdown continues beyond 10 days, Utah can make additional payments to keep the national parks and monuments open.
While Secretary Jewell made it clear to the Governor she cannot obligate the federal government for reimbursement to the State, the agreement stipulates repayment will be possible with approval from the U.S. Congress. Consequently, the Governor has engaged Utah's congressional delegation to actively pursue timely repayment to state coffers.
With autumn leaves and mild temperatures, October is a peak month for tourism in many parts of Utah. October yields about $100 million in tourism-related revenue in the State. Numerous vendors and hotels are offering discounts and promotions to attract visitors right now. For site-specific details and anticipated opening schedules, visitors should check visitutah.com for timely updates.