RELEASE: Park Service announces it will not use entrance fees to pay for operations during shutdown

Feb 6, 2019

Congressional investigation necessary into inappropriate use of NPS funds

DENVER—According to a memo obtained by The Hill, National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith announced that the National Park Service (NPS) would use funds provided in Congress’ short-term funding bill to retroactively pay for NPS operations and staffing during the government shutdown. Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt had previously signed an order directing NPS to dip into entrance fee funds to pay for park operations and keep parks open. Just this morning, Representative Betty McCollum requested that the U.S. Government Accountability Office open a probe into the use of NPS entrance fees during the government shutdown.

In response, the Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:

“This decision raises a number of questions, including whether Acting Secretary Bernhardt illegally used funds to keep our parks open in order to score political points during the government shutdown. Only under threat of investigation did he retreat and relinquish critical funds that address park maintenance.

“With the Interior Department being run by a former oil lobbyist with extensive conflicts, and legally questionable actions during the shutdown, full oversight from Congress is imperative.”

In January, House Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva sent a letter to Acting Secretary Bernhardt opposing his decision to recall Interior employees in charge of oil and gas permitting during the shutdown, calling for Bernhardt to use funds for “critical bureau functions.”

Learn more:

Trump administration raids key national park funds during government shutdown [Westwise]

Interview: Former National Park Service director on the destructive decision to keep parks open during shutdown [Westwise]

National Park Service lost estimated $10-$11 million in revenue during shutdown [Pacific Standard]