A former national park ranger is hailing the Trump administration's move to free up revenue from national park visitor fees to go toward operational costs needed to keep parks open through the partial government shutdown. The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) stipulates that fees charged by federal parks are created to fund services for visitors - not the maintenance of parks. There have been at least seven deaths in national parks since the start of the shutdown as the parks remain open and unstaffed, and many parks are dealing with health and safety issues surrounding restroom facilities.
"Instead of robbing from park funds, the President needs to work with Congress to fully reopen the federal government, including our national parks", Pierno's statement read.
"The Department of Interior is very likely violating appropriations law, " said Representative Betty McCollum, Democrat of Minnesota and the new chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on interior, environment and related agencies.
"The American people already own our national parks and fund their upkeep", Grijalva said. "I'm glad to see the Department of Interior will fund these critical programs while the government is shut down, supporting those in Montana's gateway communities and protecting our national parks".
The Washington Post first reported the shift in Park Service policy, including questions about the legality of tapping into the fee collections.
While none of these efforts can replace the full force of the National Parks services, the volunteer-led initiatives show that Americans will always be willing to take care of its lands and communities when adversity arises.
Still, the National Park Service did note that the investigation into the death of the Yosemite visitor was affected by the shutdown. "The longer we kick the can down the road, the more it will cost", Dabbs said.
The statement noted that the visitor fee money "would typically be used for future projects at parks", but the lapse in appropriations for the Park Service meant the funds "can and should be used to provide immediate assistance and services to highly visited parks".
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Stewart said Sunday that he was happy Interior would keep the parks running. "For those parks that don't collect fees, they will now be in the position of competing for the same inadequate pot of money to protect their resources and visitors. Draining accounts dry is not the answer".
The FLREA was passed partly in response to the Norris campground closure in Yellowstone National Park over a lack of funding in the 1990s.
The news of the National Park Service's decision brought some relief to his wife.
Even as Trump officials sought to maintain operations at key parks, some are closing up shop.
Sunday's announcement was met with criticism from some corners.
"In addition to human waste in public areas, driving off-road and other infractions that damage the resource are becoming a problem", the agency said.
The Journal contributed to this article.