Brewer presses president to allow use of state funds for Grand Canyon
PHOENIX -- Saying there's precedent for the move, Gov. Jan Brewer late Friday asked President Obama to let Grand Canyon National Park reopen with private and state dollars during the federal government shutdown.
"The Grand Canyon is more than Arizona's most treasured natural landmark,' the governor wrote. "It is a global attraction and driving source of national and international tourism.'
Brewer said the ideal solution would be for the president to support a House resolution which would restore funding for the National Park Service -- and only the National Park Service. But the White House has repeatedly said the president will veto any efforts to fund just part of the government.
That leaves the alternative of finding an outside source of cash.
The governor's move comes one day after Dave Uberuaga, the Grand Canyon superintendent, told Capitol Media Services neither he nor his agency would consider opening all or even part of the park with state or private dollars.
Uberuaga said it is unacceptable to open just one park while others remain closed. Beyond that, he said running parks is a "core operation that can only be funded by federal appropriation.'
But Brewer, in her letter to Obama, said that's not true. She pointed to the fact the Department of Interior had agreed in 1995 to accept $17,000 a day from the state to keep open part of the park during the 21-day shutdown.
And the governor told the president he does not even need to look back that far.
"In March of this year, the National Park Service granted Cape Cod National Seashore the authority to accept private dollars to prevent closures related to the sequester,' Brewer wrote, referring to the across-the-board spending cuts that kicked in earlier this year after the president and Congress could not agree on different cuts.
In that case, the deputy regional parks director agreed to a request to have the Friends of Cape Cod National Seashore run the Province Lands Visitor Center. That came following a $376,000 reduction in the park's remaining budget for the fiscal year and the loss of 22 employees.
"The Grand Canyon should not be held hostage in this budget battle,' Brewer said.
The governor's move comes less than a week after she caused a stir when, asked about using state dollars to keep the park open, responded, "I don't know if the Grand Canyon is a priority for the state of Arizona.'
But press aide Andrew Wilder said Brewer was focused on "other concerns in light of the shutdown,' like benefits for children and the needy that would be interrupted. And he said the governor has also been concerned with the state's "precarious financial situation.'
"The state is not in a position to bail out the federal government or pay the federal government's bills,' Wilder said.
But since that time there have been not only loud concerns from individuals and businesses affected by the park's closure, including from tourists, but also various offers of private dollars.
In her letter, Brewer did not say who she blames for the government shutdown, saying only there is a "failure of leadership in Washington.'
"The citizens of states like Arizona are left bearing the burden,' the governor wrote.
"You have the opportunity to ease that burden by allowing major economic and historic attractions, like Grand Canyon National Park to remain operational,' Brewer continued. "We hope that you will reopen our National Parks or allow us to do it ourselves.'