CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Legislation that would allow the state of Wyoming to take over operation of Yellowstone National Park and other facilities during a federal government shutdown was approved Wednesday by the state Senate.
The measure passed 17-12 and went to the House.
Under the proposal, the governor of Wyoming would be authorized to spend up to $500,000 to operate any national park or other federal facility, except military installations, within the state’s borders. Wyoming would surrender operation of any facility once a federal government shutdown ended.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Charles Scott of Casper, said a government shutdown during the summer tourist season could wreck Wyoming’s lucrative tourist industry, which is second only to energy production in bringing in tax dollars to state coffers.
Most of Yellowstone, which has attracted about 4 million visitors in each of the last four years, as well as Grand Teton National Park and Devils Tower National Monument are located in Wyoming.
“We’re going to have several years of a divided government and goodness knows what they’ll find to fight over,” Scott said. “So I think this is a reasoned and measured approach to the problem and will enable us to preserve our economy in the face of what is now a very real threat.”
It’s been nearly two weeks since the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history ended, and there’s a looming threat of another shutdown if President Donald Trump and Democrats in Washington can’t reach an agreement on border security.
Opponents of Scott’s proposal were skeptical of the idea.
“I see this operation as us throwing our weight around and kind of beating our chest, and I think the rest of country will think we’re a little bit out on a limb here,” said Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander. “And we’ll probably lose more visitors to Yellowstone park than we’re going to gain when this gets out.”
Case said the proposal “sounds more like seizure” of federal facilities by the state.
The legislation originally used the word “seize,” but those references were removed before the Senate approved the measure.