Statement on Ryan Zinke’s attempt to keep national parks open during a government shutdown

Jan 19, 2018

DENVER—As the federal government careens toward a possible shutdown at midnight tonight, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is scrambling to find a way to avoid photos of “closed” signs on our national parks. Unfortunately, Interior’s shutdown plans do not include such contingencies, as confirmed by a spokeswoman at Death Valley National Park who told the Washington Post, “We don’t have a plan yet. We just got a memo about this yesterday.”

The Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:

“Secretary Zinke is more concerned about the politics and optics of a shutdown than he is about doing what’s right for the American people and America’s parks. Trying to keep our national parks open without visitor centers, park guides, or even most restrooms carries huge risks to public safety, public health, and our natural resources. This half-baked plan will endanger park visitors and the skeleton crew of first responders that would remain on the job during a shutdown.”

Former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell confirmed to The Atlantic that she tried to keep national parks open during the 2013 government shutdown, but since parks rely on unarmed staff and volunteers to keep visitors safe, keeping parks open with limited staff would have been too dangerous.

“It’s naive for folks to believe that we can protect these assets and do what is required by law with just law-enforcement staff,” Jewell said.