Utah makes deal to open national parks in the state

Utah to pay operating expenses, and might be reimbursed after gov’t shutdown-

Utah, a state famous for its many scenic national parks has might a deal with Secretary of Interior, Sally Jewell,  To be opened and run with state funds are Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion national parks. Also; Natural Bridges and Cedar Breaks national monuments, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

The deal is to reimburse Utah with federal money when the government reopens and Congress appropriates the funds (meaning there is no assurance). Utahans love their national parks, but the state’s political leaders have usually tended to argue that much more money could be made of the Parks were filled with hard scrabble cattle and/or strip mines.

This concession is all about how vital the Parks, Monuments and National Recreation Area is to the rural economy of southern Utah.

The politics behind this are probably interesting since Utah’s Junior senator Mike Lee, is a big tea party person and one of the architects of holding the government hostage to try to kill the Affordable Care Act or whatever their demand of the day happens to be.

Other states are reported to be weighing similar deals. This would seem to be a good thing for America, but it could the camel’s nose of the states trying to grab the national parks. Utah has a very exploitive view of nature (polls show this is really only true to the political leaders).  Folks could fear what a “Zion State Park” would turn into. The Utah legislature’s funding and management of its existing state parks is truly dismal.




  1. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    but it could the camel’s nose of the states trying to grab the national parks.

    Yep. And we all know some have been trying for years to do this. Federal protection is the last shred of protection for our parks and wildlife. I’d be leery.

  2. Jeff Avatar

    What about Dinosaur National Monument? It’s a little more complicated since it straddles the CO/UT state line.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      There is also Escalante/Grand Staircase N. M.. It is very large, but established by Bill Clinton.

  3. SaveBears Avatar

    I think it sets a very bad precedence to have the states pay to reopen the federal reserves.

  4. Lyn McCormick Avatar
    Lyn McCormick

    I wonder what people would chose Obamacare or National Parks. I think it sets a dangerous precedent for land grabs by the states that want to exploit the parks for natural resources.

  5. Rita k Sharpe Avatar
    Rita k Sharpe

    I do feel it will open up a dangerous precedent.

    1. SaveBears Avatar

      What it shows is the Federal Government is not capable of managing the public assets and if the states are allowed to use state money to open them with no promise of payback, guess what lawsuits you are going to see in the very near future. the states are going to argue, that they are better equipped to run those properties on a local level.

      1. JB Avatar


        They may make that policy argument, but there’s no legal argument to be had. According to the SCOTUS, the right of the federal government to control the properties it owns is “absolute”. (The Court’s stance makes sense when you consider other types of lands the federal govt. owns…DOD lands, for example.)

        I also disagree that this shows that the government is incapable of managing public lands. The federal government has been managing Yellowstone for well over 100 years. What the action shows is that a few ideologues in Congress can shut down the government, and do great injury to the economies of the very states they purport to represent.

        1. SaveBears Avatar


          I am not surprised you disagree with you, you believe in the laws and the way things are run by that rule of law.

          I on the other hand have seen to many things manipulated and changed based on whims and desires of certain special interests, I don’t believe the rulings by the SCOTUS are absolute, things can be manipulated.

          Our biggest difference JB, is you believe in the system, I don’t.

          1. SaveBears Avatar

            oops, you disagree with me.

        2. JB Avatar

          You’re absolutely correct, SB–I do believe in the rule of law. And when you say that I believe in the ‘system’ I’m not sure what you mean? Again, if you mean the rule of law, then the answer is yes. If you mean the current balance of power between states and federal government, the answer is also yes. But there are certainly many pieces to our current system of institutions that I find distasteful.

          In any case, the SCOPUS was crystal clear in Kleppe v. New Mexico regarding the federal government’s power over the lands it owns. Note–this power stems from the property clause (the Constitution), and in our time, property rights have actually dramatically increased. Specifically, the Court held:

          “…The Clause must be given an expansive reading, for ‘[t]he power over the public lands thus entrusted to Congress is without limitations,’ …and Congress’ complete authority over the public lands includes the power to regulate and protect the wildlife living there.” (emphasis mine).

          As I said, a political argument may be (and in fact IS BEING) made that states c/would do a better job of regulating currently held federal lands–but those are policy arguments. I don’t see any way that the SCOPUS would hear a case that challenges Congress’ authority over federal property (it simply isn’t going to happen). However, Congress could chose to return some federal lands to the states; but, of course, such an act would have to pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the President (very, very unlikely).

          1. sleepy Avatar

            From my point of view, I’m not really sure there is a difference between the two arguments.

            Whatever control a state gets over federal land will occur as a result of congressional legislation or a result of federal administrative decisions, both of which are 100% within the system.

            That system no doubt represents interests that are opposed to the interests of the vast majority, yet it still is within “the rule of law”.

            All sorts of evil occurs within the rule of law.

            1. JB Avatar


              For clarity, I was responding to the argument that lawsuits would be filed because of this action. I don’t see any argument to be made; rather, I think we will see a continuation of the same tired states-rights rhetoric.

              The comment about belief in the rule of law was Save Bears attempt to contrast our perspectives. To be honest, I’m not really sure how its relevant–unless SB’s suggesting that we should eschew law and have an anarchy?

              1. SaveBears Avatar


                I was simply saying, after working for the Government for over 25 years, I have seen many things that go against the rule of law and gets manipulated based on special interests of certain groups of people.

  6. john Avatar

    I guarantee you MT an WY would be fighitnig like hell to open YS and Glacier if this happened in june july or aug.. heck most of the roads are going to be closed soon anyway,, why bail out the govt when the states will see little economic benefit..

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    Other states are being offered this deal. A few will take it. Colorado will pay to keep Rocky Mountain National Park open for a while. South Dakota will fund Mt. Rushmore, Arizona the Grand Canyon, and New York the Statute of Liberty.

    Wyoming rejected funding Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Of course, Yellowstone includes Montana and Idaho too.

  8. Nancy Avatar
  9. Ken Fischman, Ph.D. Avatar

    “What the action shows is that a few ideologues in Congress can shut down the government, and do great injury to the economies of the very states they purport to represent” –JB

    I find it ironic and infuriating that Utah, one of the states whose representatives (like Mike Lee), are most responsible for shutting down the Government, has worked out a deal that will exempt it from some of its consequences. And what kind of a deal is it that would guarantee Utah a 100% return on the money it put out?

    How come they did not work out deals like this to reopen Headstart, Food stamps, and school lunches for children? This is a glaring example of conservative hypocrisy.

    1. sleepy Avatar

      “How come they did not work out deals like this to reopen Headstart, Food stamps, and school lunches for children? This is a glaring example of conservative hypocrisy.”

      Excellent point.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan