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Utah Paying National Parks Employees During Shutdown

Jan. 14, 2019, 1:01 PM

Trash and human waste are piling up in some national parks that lack employees in visitor centers, rangers on roads, and custodial workers to clean bathrooms and empty garbage cans during the partial federal government shutdown.

And in California’s Joshua Tree National Park, vandals cut down or strung Christmas lights in the park’s spiky, iconic trees, which are supposed to be untouched by visitors but have no one to watch over them.

Utah, by contrast, paid more than $66,000 for federal workers to provide custodial operations and work in visitor centers, park stores and some campgrounds in four national parks in the state from Dec. 21 to Jan. 11, said Jay Kinghorn, associate managing director in the Utah Office of Tourism.

Rangers are being paid with state money as well, and are safeguarding park roads and resources in Arches, Zion, and Bryce Canyon national parks, Kinghorn said. A handful of employees are on the job in Canyonlands National Park near Moab.

Snowy conditions, but not the shutdown, prompted temporary closures of the main entrance roads into Arches and Canyonlands on Jan. 11, Kinghorn said.

NGO Funding

Counties, cities, and nongovernmental organizations are also kicking in some funds, Kinghorn said.

Zion facilities remain open thanks to donations from Washington County, St. George, and the Zion National Park Forever Project.

Canyonlands Natural History Association is providing funding for Arches and Canyonlands. Bryce Canyon Natural History Association is helping fund operations in that park.

During the 2013 government shutdown, Utah kicked in nearly $1 million to the federal government to keep the state’s national parks operating. The federal government promised the state it would pay the money back; it never did, according to a statement from the Office of Gov. Gary Herbert (R).

This time, the state believes it can assist the National Park Service at less than a tenth the cost, the governor’s office said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tripp Baltz in Denver at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Susan Bruninga at