SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gov. Gary Herbert wired money from state taxpayers late Thursday that will open Utah’s national parks 12 days after they closed because of the government shutdown, salvaging a popular fall season for foreign tourists by declaring, “We’re open for business.”
Herbert became the first governor to take up a offer from the Obama administration — Arizona and South Dakota are considering it. Speaking by teleconference from the state mansion, Utah’s Republican governor said he was inking a deal with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that provides $166,000 a day in funding for Utah’s five redrock parks and other units of the national park system, starting Saturday.
“That will keep them open for 10 days,” and Utah can buy extra days as needed, Herbert said.
Utah has to use its own money to staff the parks, and it will cost $50,000 a day to operate just one of them, Zion National Park, said Ally Isom, Herbert’s deputy chief of staff.
The Utah Legislature will convene in special session Wednesday to appropriate the money, but Herbert has control over discretionary funds to get them open earlier. Herbert said he was also opening Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Cedar Breaks and Natural Bridges national monuments.
“I think there’s an opportunity for us to get reimbursed,” he said. The Utah delegation will run a bill in Congress.
The parks were shut down Oct. 1.
State and county officials had been making noise about dismantling barricades to occupy the closed parks. Herbert doesn’t support it — “we’re law-abiding people in Utah,” he told reporters Wednesday. One state senator had been planning to lead a protest march into Zion National Park on Saturday, but it looks like it will be open by then.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.