LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Don’t expect Nevada to follow the lead of Arizona and Utah to keep some of their national parks open if the federal government shuts down on Sunday.
The U.S. Department of Interior said gates will be locked, visitor centers closed and rangers furloughed if Saturday’s deadline for an agreement to fund the government passes without a deal.
That includes two of the most popular attractions in Southern Nevada — Red Rock National Conservation Area and Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Red Rock will likely be under lock and key, and services at Lake Mead could be limited. Lake Mead’s superintendent will make the decision on whether businesses at the lake will be permitted to continue operations during a shutdown.
On Thursday, governors in Arizona and Utah pledged to find a way to keep the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park operating. But a response from Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo’s office indicated there will be no such effort here. “No, we don’t anticipate that,” Elizabeth Ray, Lombardo’s spokesperson, said in an email. “We’ll send out updated guidance on our response to the tentative shut down tomorrow (Friday).”
8 News Now will update this story when that guidance is released publicly.
A federal shutdown would not affect state parks including Valley of Fire, Spring Mountain Ranch and Big Bend of the Colorado near Laughlin.
Now, the shutdown appears to be a certainty after a deal proposed by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy fell through on Friday, with hard-right conservatives shooting it down.
The National Parks Service, part of the Interior Department, released an explanation on what will happen at parks — including Lake Mead, Red Rock and Great Basin National Park.
“This means that the majority of national parks will be closed completely to public access. Areas that, by their nature, are physically accessible to the public will face significantly reduced visitor services,” the statement said.
“At NPS sites across the country, gates will be locked, visitor centers will be closed, and thousands of park rangers will be furloughed. Accordingly, the public will be encouraged not to visit sites during the period of lapse in appropriations out of consideration for protection of natural and cultural resources, as well as visitor safety.”
It’s a reversal from the Trump administration’s handling of a government shutdown five years ago. Some parks were kept open in a move that was criticized as illegal by the Government Accountability Office, the congressional watchdog.
About 13,000 of the 19,000 National Park Service workers are expected to be furloughed, the agency said in a contingency plan posted online Friday.
Law enforcement and emergency response personnel will continue to work, according to NPS. Fire protection on federal lands will continue. See the Department of Interior’s contingency plans.
There are concerns about damage to parks if the shutdown happens, with trash collection and routine maintenance stopped. Five years ago in a shutdown that lasted 35 days, trash cans and portable toilets overflowed at Joshua Tree National Park, providing an example of the mess that’s created without normal services.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.