Utah County Seeks To Take Over Closed National Park Areas During Government Shutdown

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One county in Utah has come up with its own plan to open up the national parks areas that have been closed by the government shutdown.

San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge and County Commissioner Phil Lyman confirmed that county officials have proposed removing barricades and providing resources to operate Lake Powell, Natural Bridges and Hovenweep national monuments, and the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

“This is not going to be a showdown or a standoff," Eldredge said. "This is something that’s going to be done peacefully. We just want to take over as far as law enforcement, EMS, and search and rescue, and get those parks open."

San Juan County has reportedly become the fifth county in the state to declare a state of emergency in response to the closure of National Park areas.

NPR reports that the commissioners had decided to take down the barricades at Natural Bridges National Monument as early as Thursday morning but put off that move to give Utah Governor Gary Herbert time to discuss the issue with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

In an emergency meeting on Wednesday, the commissioners decided to mobilize Sheriff's deputies, search and rescue volunteers, firefighters, EMT's, portable toilets, garbage trucks and three mobile command centers. At least 60 people would be involved, according to Rick Bailey, the county fire marshal. Bailey said the costs of the operation haven't been calculated but he said they're necessary.

"How do we let local businesses starve to death?" Bailey questioned.

Bailey also noted that 70 percent of the county's businesses depend on visitors to the region's National Parks, Monuments and Recreation Areas, as well as public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

Sources: The Salt Lake Tribune, NPR