The U.S. Department of the Interior has announced that the majority of the country’s national parks will close and be inaccessible to the public if the federal government shuts down. This decision is expected to disrupt travel plans for millions of visitors to popular attractions such as Yosemite. The closure means that gates will be locked, visitor centers will be closed, and park rangers will be furloughed. The move comes as Congress approaches a September 30 deadline to keep the government running, with some hard-right Republicans opposing any temporary measures to maintain functionality.
While most national parks will close, there is an option for states and local governments to pay the federal government in order to keep specific parks operating. So far, governors of Arizona and Utah have expressed their intention to pay to keep parks like the Grand Canyon, Zion, Arches, and Bryce Canyon open. In previous shutdowns, states like New York paid to reopen attractions including Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. However, it is unclear if they will do the same this time.
This decision marks a departure from the approach taken during the previous government shutdown in 2018 when former President Donald J. Trump kept the parks open but unstaffed. That resulted in significant damage, including poaching, graffiti, and irresponsible off-roading. The Department of the Interior oversees more than 400 national park sites, employing 20,000 workers. While some attractions like the National Mall and open-air memorials in Washington will remain open to the public, they were gated off during a previous shutdown a decade ago.