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Some states pay to reopen parks, but not Wyoming

Oct 13, 2013 - From The Associated Press

Tourists returned to the Grand Canyon on Saturday after Arizona officials along with several counterparts agreed to a federal government plan to reopen national parks, which had been closed as a result of the partial government shutdown.

But the Obama administration's OK to reopen tourist areas across the nation came with a big caveat: States must foot the bill with money they likely won't see again.

In Wyoming, Republican Gov. Matt Mead's office said the state would not pay to reopen two heavily visited national parks or Devil's Tower national monument.

"Wyoming cannot bail out the federal government, and we cannot use state money to do the work of the federal government," Mead spokesman Renny MacKay said.

Mead was told earlier that the shutdown order prohibited any state from reopening a national park, MacKay said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.

"While the Department of Interior's position may have changed, Wyoming's position has not," he said.

Mead authorized the use of state employees and heavy equipment this spring when federal budget cuts forced Yellowstone and Grand Teton to delay snow plowing operations. Cody and Jackson raised private and local government funds to cover the costs of assisting with plowing, and the parks opened on time.

Mead cautioned then that he was wary of setting a precedent, and hedid not allocate state funds for the effort.

Instead, he allowed local organizers to cover costs incurred by use of state equipment and Wyoming Department of Transportation workers.

Grand Teton National Park and Devils Tower National Monument are located within Wyoming's borders. And while approximately 96 percent of Yellowstone is in Wyoming, 3 percent of the park lies in Montana and 1 percent is in Idaho.

So far, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Arizona and New York have agreed to open parks that had been closed since the beginning of the month.

Meanwhile, governors in other states were trying to gauge what would be the bigger economic hit -- paying to keep the areas operating or losing the tourist money that flows when the scenic attractions are open.

South Dakota and several corporate donors worked out a deal with the National Park Service to reopen Mount Rushmore beginning Monday.

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