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National Parks to Shut Down During Government Closure

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The U.S. Department of the Interior has announced that if the federal government shuts down, the majority of the country’s national parks will close to the public. This decision is expected to disrupt travel plans for millions of visitors who had intended to visit popular attractions like Yosemite. The closure will involve locking gates, closing visitor centers, and furloughing thousands of park rangers. While some parks may remain open if states and local governments are willing to pay the federal government, the decision to close the parks to visitors marks a departure from former President Donald J. Trump’s approach during a previous shutdown in 2018.

As Congress approaches the September 30 deadline to keep the federal government running, parks, as well as the towns and businesses that depend on them for income, have been preparing for potential shutdowns. At least 10 hard-right Republicans have opposed any temporary measures to keep the government functioning. However, some governors, such as those of Arizona and Utah, have already expressed their intention to pay for the parks to remain open, including iconic sites like the Grand Canyon and Zion. In past shutdowns, states like New York have also paid to reopen attractions like Ellis Island and Mount Rushmore. It remains uncertain whether they will do the same this time.

The Biden administration’s decision to close the parks to visitors contrasts with the approach taken by the previous administration. During the 2018 shutdown, former President Trump opted to keep the parks open but understaffed, resulting in significant damage and violations, such as poaching, graffiti, and illegal off-roading. The Department of the Interior, which oversees over 400 national park sites employing 20,000 workers, has stated that attractions like the National Mall and open-air memorials in Washington will remain open to the public, though they were gated off during a past shutdown.

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