Barrasso wants Haaland to keep parks open during shutdown

By Nidhi Prakash | 09/20/2023 04:17 PM EDT

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources ranking member wants the administration to use entrance fees to keep national parks and public lands open in the event of a partial government shutdown.

Mount Rainier National Park.

A visitor entering Mount Rainier National Park on January 2019 after the last partial government shutdown. Ted Warren/AP Photo

As Congress barrels toward a probable government shutdown at the end of next week, Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso is pushing for national parks and public lands to remain open.

Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, wrote to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Wednesday asking her to use her authority under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act to keep the areas accessible during a potential shutdown.

“To ensure that you are protecting public access to our public places and preventing and irreversible environmental degradation during a shutdown, I ask that you keep the parks and public lands open and accessible,” Barrasso wrote.


Barrasso urged Haaland to use visitors’ fees to pay for the maintenance and functioning of parks and public lands even if federal government funding runs dry.

“Your judicious management of FLREA fees will protect the millions of people who plan and save for trips to these special places, ensure that gateway communities that rely on park visitation for jobs and economic stability do not needlessly suffer, and sustain the dedicated National Park Service (NPS) employees who rely on a regular paycheck,” he wrote.

Then-acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt directed the National Park Service to use these fees to maintain parks and public lands for a period during the 2019 government shutdown.

House Republicans have repeatedly failed to advance spending legislation because of conservative demands for deeper cuts and policy provisions.

In the Senate, lawmakers Wednesday afternoon rejected advancing a trio of spending bills because of ongoing talks about a bipartisan path forward.