Barrasso to Interior Department: Keep the Parks Open

September 28, 2021

Ranking Member Barrasso asks Secretary Haaland to keep national parks and other public lands open in the event of a government shutdown.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland asking that she keep national parks and other public lands open in the event of a government shutdown. 

In the letter, Barrasso called on Haaland to use park fees to keep the parks operational. He writes that keeping the parks open will benefit visitors, park service employees, and local economies. 

Read the full letter here and below. 

Dear Secretary Haaland, 

The safety, security, and public access to America’s national parks should be a priority regardless of the political environment. As we approach the end of the fiscal year there is a possibility of a lapse in appropriations, and I write to urge you to use your existing authorities to keep the national parks and other public lands open and accessible to the public in the event of a government shutdown. 

Closing the parks would have devastating impacts, including impacts to: (1) members of the public who plan and save for trips to national parks; (2) gateway communities that rely on park visitation for jobs and economic stability and; (3) National Park Service (NPS) employees who rely on a regular paycheck. 

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) authorizes you to retain funds from the collection of fees and to use those funds for various purposes, including visitor access and services, public health and safety, and law enforcement related to public use and recreation. In previous years, it has been demonstrated that these funds can be successfully utilized to keep public lands open during a shutdown. 

Many national parks and other facilities under your jurisdiction charge entrance fees, and some charge additional, separate fees for certain recreational uses. The majority of the funds generated from these “rec fees” are retained and used at the parks where they were collected. The remaining funds are distributed to parks that don’t collect fees, and must be used for purposes specified in FLREA. During the December 2018-January 2019 government shutdown, most of the national parks remained accessible to visitors because rec fees were available to cover costs associated with visitor services and law enforcement. 

The NPS Organic Act established a dual mission, requiring the service to conserve the scenery and to provide for the enjoyment of the people. Both of these objectives can be accomplished through careful planning and coordination. To ensure that you are protecting public access to our public places and preventing any irreversible environmental degradation during a shutdown, I ask that you keep the parks and public lands open and accessible. Additionally, please provide me with a current accounting of the FLREA funds available, as well as the contingency plans for each of the bureaus at Interior.

Thank you for your timely response.