Because of the foresight of many individuals who determined that certain areas of the United States should be protected, we have our national park system for all to enjoy. Over the years, the states that are fortunate enough to have a popular park located within its borders have increasingly benefited from the dollars tourists leave behind. West Yellowstone, Montana is a good example of a money making tourist community that would likely be almost nonexistent if not for the presence of the adjacent national park.
Most national parks were closed during the partial government shutdown. However, Utah temporarily reopened the national parks located there during the shutdown, and the Statue of Liberty reopened. Just today, I heard the state of Colorado paid the federal government $40,000 a day to staff Rocky Mountain National Park during the shutdown, and tourists flocked back to the town of Estes Park. Clearly, states felt the loss of tourism dollars, and in some cases, reopening parks using state funds with permission from the federal government.
This might be an opportune time to ask if the present system of national parks is indeed necessary. Should not the appropriate states that benefit financially be given control of the parks within its borders? In Crookston, we live less than two hours away from Itasca State Park, and tourists come from around the world to visit the Mississippi Headwaters in Minnesota as they do Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. The difference is that they visit the monument in South Dakota at the expense of the federal government. If that was not the case, Mount Rushmore would not be closed, although as I write this, the governor of South Dakota is considering using state funds to open it up. It seems reasonable to assume that the economy in that part South Dakota is taking a major hit because of the closure, and the governor is under pressure to do something about it.
It is important to remember that the underlying reason for the crisis in Washington is our dependency on the federal government spending more money than it takes in. Transferring control of the national park system to the states could be wise decision that will start the process of finding ways to cut federal spending.
For the sake of our country, the current financial crises might be a blessing in disguise if the federal government does indeed consider all ways of cutting federal spending while keeping the services and benefits that American people expect mostly intact.