During National Parks Week Trump Announces Parks, Public Lands To Reopen
Spring has sprung and Americans will soon be able to enjoy the warmer weather in their National Parks. During an Earth Day ceremony held at the White House, President Trump announced that thanks to the “significant progress” made against the coronavirus in recent weeks, national parks and public lands would reopen.
“Thanks to our significant progress against the invisible enemy, I’m pleased to announce that in line with my administration’s guidelines for opening up America again, we will begin to reopen our national parks and public lands for the American people to enjoy,” Trump said. “That’s going to be very exciting; we have a lot of land to open up, too. People are going to be very happy.”
His announcement dovetailed with the actions of a bipartisan group of 30 senators, led by Montana Sen. Steve Daines (R) that has introduced a resolution naming the week of April 18-26, “National Parks Week.”
“This week is National Park Week, a time to celebrate our national treasures across Montana and the country,” Daines said. “I know we’re all looking forward to getting outside and enjoying our parks soon. As our nation works to overcome the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, folks can still enjoy our parks from the comfort of their own home with virtual programs put on by the National Park Service!”
The bipartisan coalition passed the resolution to support National Parks in a time when many Americans are sheltering in place or staying close to home because of the COVID-19 virus. In conjunction with the National Parks Week announcement, many of America’s most picturesque parks, including Mount Ranier, Crater Lake, and Yellowstone are posting links to livestreams of famous vistas and promoting ways for Americans to enjoy the beauties of the outdoor world from inside.
“For National Park Week we want to help people ‘parked’ at home,” said Chip Jenkins, the Mount Rainier National Park superintendent. “You can still enjoy the icon of the Pacific Northwest, through a virtual visit. There are many options for kids, parents, teachers, people who enjoy scenery, science, and history.”
Daines is one of several senators trying to keep national parks in the spotlight to hopefully help pass the Restore Our Parks Act, a piece of legislation that seemed poised for passage just a few weeks ago. The legislation would dedicate a portion of the rents and fees paid by oil and gas developers operating on federal lands to paying for billions of dollars of deferred maintenance projects across the National Parks Service.
In early March, the legislation—expanded to include national forests and renamed the Great American Outdoors Act–awaited only a scheduled vote after securing Trump’s approval and majority support in both houses of Congress. Since then, soaring unemployment, coronavirus fears, and falling oil prices have replaced public lands issues in the headlines.
However, some lawmakers remain dedicated to the projects and are trying to ensure that National Parks and Forests are not forgotten, even though many Americans are sheltering indoors.
“A month ago, the next bill up in the United States Senate was the Great American Outdoors Act. It’s like everything else in America. It got blown out of the way by the virus.” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R, Tenn.), told a local news station.
While overall tourism is down, national parks are continuing to receive visitors, especially since the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced several weeks ago that it was suspending entrance fees for national parks and forests, meaning that the NPS is taking in even less money through entrance fees even though its infrastructure and trails continue to be used.
“In the Smokies, those are things like trails, leaky roofs, and bathrooms that don’t work for the millions of people who come every year,” Alexander continued. “But we have been consumed with the virus for the last month.”
Unfortunately, as much of the country remains stuck inside under shelter in place orders, these projects are continuing to languish unfinished, and visits to national parks remain largely virtual.