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Policy: Environment & Energy

Utah county considers shutdown contingency plan for federal lands

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Politics,Associated Press,Utah,Energy and Environment,Government Shutdown,National Park Service,National Parks

ELKO, Nev. -- Taking a cue from officials in Utah, Elko County officials are considering a plan to run U.S. Forest Service campgrounds and other federal recreation sites in the event of another government shutdown.

Commissioner Grant Gerber said another shutdown could hurt the county's economy, especially if tourists are turned away from campgrounds and other sites during the busiest months of outdoor recreation.

It would be better for the county to take a proactive approach rather than scramble for a solution during a shutdown, he said.

"If all the campgrounds and everything in Elko County were shut down for a significant period of time, it could have a very damaging impact on us," Gerber said. "And I think it's good we're looking at [ways to keep them open] now."

The idea was discussed at a meeting of the Elko County Natural Resources Management Advisory Commission meeting this week in Elko, the Elko Daily Free Press reported.

During the three-week government shutdown in October, Utah sent $1.67 million to the U.S. government to reopen its five national parks and other recreation sites in hopes of saving its lucrative fall tourist season.

Utah was among only a handful of states that accepted the Obama administration's offer to reopen the parks on the condition that states foot the bill.

U.S. Forest Service Deputy District Ranger Matt Boisseau said agencies are receptive to the idea of allowing local governments to manage facilities during federal government shutdowns, but questions remain about funding.

A bill has been introduced in Congress detailing a mechanism to allow government services to remain open, he said.

"That's really what the hope for this discussion was: try to get things started ... try to figure out what we need ... some cost stuff, simple stuff just to get a figure on the scope of the expense," he said.

The advisory commission will continue discussing the topic at future meetings.

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