UTAH, Jan. 5, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — Three Utah congressmen have signed a letter asking the acting Secretary of the Interior to take action to provide safety services at five national parks in Utah during the federal government’s partial shutdown.
The parks are Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion National Park.
Representatives signing the letter to David Bernhardt, acting Secretary of the Interior, were Rob Bishop (R), First District; Christ Stewart (R), Second District; and John Curtis (R), Third District.
Utah’s Fourth District representative, Ben McAdams (D), who took office Thursday, did not sign the letter, which went out Friday.
Curtis posted a copy of the letter to Twitter on Saturday.
“Thanks to the Department of Interior and State of Utah for helping keep Utah’s national parks open during this shutdown,” Curtis’ tweet says.
“We can do more. Today, I’ve joined Representatives Bishop and Stewart in asking the DOI to use the Antideficiency Act which will safeguard our visitors.”
The letter asks Bernhardt to make an exception to the Antideficiency Act, which bans Federal agencies from spending funds before they are appropriated. The five national parks in Utah are not currently federal funded due to the partial government shutdown.
“The act does make a critical exception for ’emergencies involving the safety of human life of the protection of property,'” the representatives’ letter says. “We believe, in the case of these national parks, public safety and property are at heightened risk, and therefore merit this exception.”
The letter notes the fact that Utah’s parks, unlike many in other states, often see large numbers of visitors during the winter months.
“Zion has seen a surge of visitation, with as many as 11,000 people visiting the park in a single day,” the letter says. “Only a skeleton crew is left to protect and serve these thousands of visitors.”
Utah agencies and citizen groups have scraped together some funding to help, the letter says, but, “these entities all have limits on their resources and the State has yet to be reimbursed for their financial investment in the parks during a previous government shutdown.”
Pres. Donald Trump has said Friday that the partial government shutdown could last “months or even years” if Congress does not approve $5.6 billion in funding for a wall at America’s southern border. Building the wall was one of Trump’s campaign promises.
The shutdown is leaving an estimated 800,000 federal workers unpaid.