As lawmakers wrangle over how to end the partial shutdown of the federal government, officials in New York, South Dakota and Arizona secured late on Friday the reopening of three national parks: the Statue of Liberty, Mt. Rushmore, and the Grand Canyon.
The iconic parklands -- and crucial drivers of state tourism revenue -- will reopen with operating funds "donated" by state coffers. The Grand Canyon and Statue of Liberty will open Saturday in time for the three-day weekend, and Mt. Rushmore will reopen Monday, according to the Department of Interior.
“While this deal will buy us some time and bring back lost revenue to the state, I would hope our elected officials in Washington move urgently to negotiate an immediate end to this government standstill," Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement released Friday.
Brewer thanked President Obama, her occasional nemesis, for reversing his policy and allowing states to fund national parks.
Earlier on Friday, the National Park Service announced that Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park and all three of Utah's national parks would reopen with state-donated funds.
Missouri and Tennessee officials are reportedly considering whether to use state funds to open parks within their borders.
States footing the bill for running national parks is just one of the ad-hoc measures for coping with closures. Private donors pledged to make up some of the funding shortfall for federal programs like Head Start. Offers by private foundations to cover the death benefits for deceased service members prompted President Obama to restore that funding Thursday night.
But no deep-pocketed donor has stepped forward to fund national parks, which fall outside the definition of "essential" government services. And the break in funding prompted the Department of the Interior to close about 400 national parks and furlough more than 20,000 employees.
Many of the parks, especially in the West, are significant generators of tourism revenue for hard-pressed parts of the states, and towns anchored by national parks rely on the ordinary day-to-day spending by park employees.
Arizona will pay the park service $651,000 for a seven-day reopening, and New York will pay $369,300 for six days. South Dakota will pay $152,000 for a 10-day period.
Governors and state officials are wagering that the return on the investment -- in the form of tax receipts and general economic activity -- will far exceed the parks' operating costs.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said she would consider agreements with other states but is eager to restart all of the parks and reinstate the furloughed employees.
“We want to reopen all of our national parks as quickly possible for everyone to enjoy and call on Congress to pass a clean continuing resolution to open the government,” Jewell said.
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