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Administration opposes opening recreation areas during federal shutdowns

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The administration does not want to allow state and local governments to operate national recreational areas in future government shutdowns. At a congressional hearing on national park-related legislation on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, Christina Goldfuss, deputy director of congressional & external relations for the National Park Service (NPS), said that the administration opposes the Public Access to Public Land Guarantee Act (S. 1750), which would allow state and local governments to operate national parks, national wildlife refuges, Bureau of Land Management areas and national forests for recreational purposes in case of a lapse in federal appropriations.

At a hearing of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Goldfuss explained that the administration does not want to open up a few government programs while others remain closed. She also cited potential difficulty in administering such a law. And she said that NPS thinks that allowing state and local governments to administer federal lands, even on a short term basis, would upset the framework for operating national parks. It would be unfair to open sites in states willing to operate them and not in others, Goldfuss stated. She said it was an “enormous burden” on the small NPS staff still at work during the shutdown last October just to come up with agreements in a handful of states, so imagine what it would take if hundreds of state and local governments wanted to sign agreements with a skeleton crew of federal officials on short notice.

Goldfuss also testified in support of other national park bills, though. She said NPS supports S. 1866 to extend through 2020 the authority of the Adams Memorial Foundation to create a monument to President John Adams in Washington, DC. The House already approved the bill.

NPS also endorsed S. 1718, which would extend the boundary of Petersburg National Battlefield by 7,238 acres and allow a land transfer with the U.S. Army. But NPS estimates it would take 15-20 years to acquire all the land. Goldfuss said that the local governments and communities have endorsed the bill.

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