The U.S. Department of the Interior has announced that the majority of the country’s national parks will close if the federal government shuts down. This decision is likely to disrupt travel plans for millions of visitors to popular attractions such as Yosemite and historical sites. The closure will involve locking gates, closing visitor centers, and furloughing thousands of park rangers. As Congress approaches a September 30 deadline to fund the government, parks and the surrounding towns and businesses are bracing for the impact.
While not all parks will close, the Interior Department stated that states and local governments can choose to keep specific parks operational by paying the federal government. In some cases, the cost per day can amount to tens of thousands of dollars. Arizona and Utah’s governors have already expressed their intentions to pay and keep parks like the Grand Canyon, Zion, Arches, and Bryce Canyon open. During previous shutdowns, other states like New York paid to reopen attractions such as Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. However, it remains uncertain whether they will do the same this time.
The decision to close national parks marks a shift from former President Donald J. Trump’s approach during the 2018 shutdown. Trump opted to keep the parks open but understaffed, resulting in lasting damage such as poaching, graffiti, and off-roading in sensitive areas. The Department of the Interior, which oversees over 400 national park sites, employs 20,000 workers. While attractions like the National Mall and open-air memorials in Washington will remain open to the public, they were previously gated off during a past shutdown.