Legislation would guarantee public access to public lands

Arizona representatives introduced the Public Access to Public Land Guarantee Act of 2013 (H.R.3661), bipartisan legislation that would require the federal government to enter into an agreement with any state or municipality that offers non-federal funds to reopen and temporarily operate public lands (including national parks, national monuments and national recreation areas) during a government shutdown. If Congress retroactively appropriates funds, the Act would also require the federal government to refund the state or municipality.

Reps. Paul Gosar, Ann Kirkpatrick, Trent Franks, Walter Jones and Tom McClintock are original co-sponsors of H.R.3661.

Rep. Gosar said, “The communities in Arizona and across the country that rely on our national parks, forests and other federal lands as drivers of their local economies are not political pawns. My bill requires the federal government to work with willing municipalities and state governments to keep national parks open during shutdowns and to repay states and local governments if Congress retroactively allocates the funds.”

“This is critical for rural communities in my district, whose economies rely on tourism, outdoor recreation and natural resources development,” Rep. Gosar continued. “My bill will mitigate the pain inflicted on these hardworking Americans during federal shutdowns.”

Federal parks and lands were closed during the federal government shutdown of October 2013. Consequently, communities that rely on these parks and lands as economic drivers were severely hurt. The Obama Administration initially refused to accept offers from state agencies to operate parks and recreation areas during the shutdown and only after significant Congressional pressure did the National Park Service begin negotiating agreements with willing states. If shutdowns occur in the future, states like Arizona are concerned that the National Park System will again be used as a political pawn and that, even if states are temporarily allowed to open and manage the national parks in their states, the federal government will not reimburse them after the shutdown ends.

H.R.3661 is needed to mitigate economic damage to local communities in the event of a federal government shutdown.

The Senate version (S. 1750) of H.R.3661 was introduced by Senator Flake last week and was co-sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Mike Lee (R-UT).

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