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Utah, Colo. parks to reopen amid shutdown; Arizona still waiting

- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2013

Utah has agreed to pay the federal government $1.7 million to open up eight national parks during the government shutdown, and Colorado will pony up $362,700 to open Rocky Mountain National Park.

But Arizona officials said the Obama administration is still "dragging their feet" in reaching an agreement over the Grand Canyon.

After being battered for its decision-making during the shutdown, the park service is trying to regain its footing, including opening up monuments in Washington and Philadelphia to First Amendment activities, which in essence makes them open to anyone who knows the policy.

After first floating the potential for a deal on Thursday, the park service said it had finalized an agreement with Utah on Friday.

"This is a practical and temporary solution that will lessen the pain for some businesses and communities," Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell said, adding that she is looking to strike agreements with other states.

As of Friday afternoon, Utah and Colorado were the only ones to get agreements.

Arizona has been desperate to get the Grand Canyon reopened, and Gov. Jan Brewer had a conversation Friday with Ms. Jewell, but since then the state said it's heard nothing.

"It's been more than 14 hours since Secretary Jewell and Gov. Brewer spoke," said Andrew Wilder, a spokesman for the governor. "We've placed multiple calls yesterday, multiple calls today trying to reach them."

He said the got an email from Interior Department staff proposing a phone call take place Friday, but after the Arizona officials agreed, they never heard back.

"They're dragging their feet, it appears," Mr. Wilder said.

Under the agreement with Utah, the state will donate funds to the park service, which will use the money to reopen Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion National Parks, as well as Cedar Breaks National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The parks will reopen Friday and the money will last for 10 days.

States had proposed this sort of arrangement early on, saying they'd done the same thing in the 1995-1996 shutdowns, but the Park Service had balked this year, telling states it didn't have the legal ability to make those deals.

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