Feds Warn Arizona on Park Closures

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Daniel Patterson (520) 906-2159; Kate Hornyan (202) 265-7337

Feds Warn Arizona on Park Closures

Shuttering Parks Purchased with Federal Dollars Jeopardizes Future Federal Aid

TUCSON, Ariz. - The National Park Service has served notice on the State of Arizona
that its plan to close more parks purchased with federal dollars could
cost the state dearly in future federal aid according to a letter
released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
(PEER). Arizona had planned to begin a new round of park closures next
week, starting on June 3, 2010, but new short-term local agreements may
delay some additional park closures.

The April 29, 2010 letter
from Acting National Park Service (NPS) Intermountain Regional Director
Mary Gibson Scott to Governor Jan Brewer and other state officials notes
that the state "has received $58 million in Federal Financial
assistance to aid in the acquisition and development of numerous local,
county, and state parks", including "11 Arizona state parks which have
received LWCF {federal Land and Water Conservation Fund] financial
assistance [that] we understand are proposed for closure by no later
than June 3, 2010." Ms. Gibson warns that:

"The
purpose of this letter is to alert you that the closure of any state
park or historic site that has received LWCF assistance would be viewed
by the NPS as being in noncompliance with Federal requirements.
Noncompliance will jeopardize LWCF funding and reimbursements and
potentially impact other Federal grant programs."

"If Gov. Brewer closes parks, the National Park Service must quickly
move to take over parks created or supported with federal funding. The
people of Arizona want parks open and would applaud," stated Southwest
PEER Director Daniel Patterson who is also an Arizona State
Representative who has been working with State Parks employees and
advocates to try to keep the parks open. "Gov. Brewer's reckless ‘shut
it down' attack on Arizona's state parks violates conservation
agreements that are important to the future of the state."

In
her letter, Ms. Gibson Scott invites state officials to work with NPS to
explore "measures that can be taken short of total park closures" that
still would "provide as much flexibility as possible to deal with
funding shortfalls." In any federal-state park deal, a key player will
be Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, Chairman of the U.S. House
Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands. Rep. Grijalva
has been working with NPS and PEER to help avoid the Arizona State Parks
shutdown.

In addition to loss of federal funds, park closures
will bring a host of liability and public safety problems due to the
state's inability to secure park lands from spreading wildfires, drug
cultivation, violent crimes and injuries. "Last year, California
proposed to close state parks as a budget cut but figured out that the
resulting lawsuits and other losses could cost taxpayers much more in
the long run than any short term savings," said PEER Executive Director
Jeff Ruch pointing to an extraordinary legal analysis by California
Department of Parks & Recreation attorneys detailing a litany of
legal headaches from shuttering parks. "Even California has learned
that closing state parks is the epitome of a penny-wise-pound-foolish
economy."

Read
the NPS letter to Arizona

Look
at Arizona park units supported by federal dollars

Examine
Arizona park closure plans

See how
California learned that it may be more expensive to close parks than
keep them open

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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