POWELL (WNE) — If Congress fails to reach a budget deal and the federal government shuts down, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., says national parks like Yellowstone should remain open.
On Tuesday, Barrasso asked Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to keep national parks and public lands accessible to the public in the event of a shutdown.
“The safety, security, and public access to America’s national parks should be a priority regardless of the political environment,” Barrasso wrote in a letter.
He said closing the parks “would have devastating impacts.”
Along with battling over a measure that would raise the federal debt limit — something Treasury officials say must be done by mid-October to avert a default — as of Wednesday afternoon, Senate Republicans and Democrats had yet to approve a budget for the new fiscal year that begins Friday. They were expected to reach a deal, but if they don’t pass some kind of funding measure, the majority of federal offices will temporarily close and most workers will be furloughed.
In his letter to Haaland, Barrasso said a shutdown of the National Park System would impact tourists planning a trip to a national park, gateway communities that rely on park-related tourism and National Park Service employees who rely on a regular paycheck.
(In the past, federal workers have been forced to go without pay until Congress restores funding.) A shutdown in October 2013 led to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area being shuttered for 16 days. The number of visits to Yellowstone that month sank 73% from the prior year, with officials logging 129,500 fewer visits. The closures of the public properties also drew public backlash.