Political Closures Of Parks Damaging

In all likelihood, an Interior Department report this week was intended by President Barack Obama as another slap at conservatives in Congress. During the government “shutdown” last fall, he blamed them for all sorts of havoc.

If the report on national parks during the shutdown was issued with that intention, it backfired.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told reporters the shutdown cost the parks and communities around them about $414 million in lost spending by visitors. About 7.9 million people who otherwise would have visited the parks stayed away, according to Jewell.

“The very unfortunate government shutdown of October had one silver lining,” Jewell said. “Communities realized just how much benefit they get from the parks being open.”

Most people living and doing business near the parks already knew the tourist attractions’ value.

But the Interior Department report avoids how much income the parks themselves missed because of the shutdown. One hint is contained in a line about national parks in Utah, where about 16 percent of visitor spending occurred inside the parks.

Entry fees and other charges to visitors generate a substantial amount of money – probably enough to have kept the parks open during the shutdown.

Yet Obama – to throw blame on conservatives in Congress -ordered the parks closed. In the process, as the NPS report shows, he inflicted $414 million of punishment on communities around the parks.