Utah Representatives Spur Emergency Funding For National Parks

Mark Ralston  AFP  Getty Images

Mark Ralston AFP Getty Images

If the government shutdown continues, Bhatti told CNN the group will be looking for more parks to clean and more ways to help areas impacted by the shutdown.

"After consultation with the Office of the Solicitor at the Department of the Interior, it has been determined that these funds can and should be used to provide immediate assistance and services to highly-visited parks during the lapse in appropriations", Smith said in a news release Sunday.

Due to the ongoing government shutdown, hundreds of thousands of federal employees have seen their jobs put on hold, as well as their paychecks.

This "extraordinary step" could be a violation of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, the Post noted, because that law limits the use of entrance fees for "repair, maintenance, and facility enhancement related directly to visitor enjoyment, visitor access, and health and safety", visitor information and habitat restoration, among other things.

Even though Joshua Tree National Park has received overwhelming amounts of care from the local community, the cost of keeping a park maintained are at the expense of people's both personal finances and time.

"Relaxing those internal controls, as the Park Service appears to be doing, is a positive step toward better addressing the agency's most pressing maintenance and operational challenges", Regan said.

As national parks have remained open yet understaffed over the past two weeks, Purdy and dozens of others across the country have volunteered to fill in for the missing workers.

The Washington Post first reported the shift in Park Service policy, including questions about the legality of tapping into the fee collections.

Fortune has reached out to the National Park Service for additional comment on these deaths and how the government shutdown is impacting safety and emergency procedures at the parks. Four other deaths are believed to be suicides, according to Mike Litterst, the National Park Service acting chief spokesperson and chief of public affairs.

"We aren't releasing more detail because the incident remains under investigation, which is taking longer than usual because of the shutdown", Munoz said.

"While the (National Park Service) will not be able to fully open parks, and numerous smaller sites around the country will remain closed, utilizing these funds now will allow the American public to safely visit numerous nation's national parks while providing these iconic treasures the protection they deserve", Smith said in a statement.

"It's incredibly concerning that the Acting Interior Secretary is putting political pressure on superintendents to keep parks open at the expense of parks' long-term needs and protection", Pierno said.

The Shenandoah National Park Trust is providing emergency funding to clean port-a-potties twice a week at the park.

If Shenandoah National Park takes part in the plan, the trust says it will still cover the cleaning cost of port-a-potties. On Sunday, Mount Rainier National Park announced that it was closing motor vehicle access beyond the park entrance because its main concession operator had stopped picking up trash and cleaning the bathrooms, and because snow was starting to accumulate.

Some parks, including those in Utah, are littered with garbage with restrooms locked and roads blocked because of piling snow.

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