States Rights

Wisconsin Gov. Walker defies order to close federally-funded parks

FILE: June 5, 2012: Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker reacts at his victory party in Waukesha, Wis. Walker defeated Democratic challenger Tom Barrett in a special recall election.AP

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is defying a directive from the National Park Service to close down several state parks that receive federal funding in the wake of the partial government shutdown.

The Republican governor has directed the state Natural Resources Department to keep open parks that receive a majority of their funding from the state, The Hill reported.

The department recently intervened after the Fish and Wildlife Service placed barricades near a  Mississippi River boat launch because it was on federal land. The barricades were removed because of a decades-old agreement between Wisconsin and the federal government, state officials said.

“We respect the magnitude of the process the federal government has had to undertake to close its properties and certain activities on properties they own and manage,” Cathy Stepp, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, told agency employees in an email obtained by The Hill.

“However, after close review and legal consult, [the Department of Natural Resources] has clarified areas where the federal procedures are over-reaching by ordering the closure of properties where the state has management authority through existing agreements.”

State officials also said Wisconsin will not not fully follow a Fish and Wildlife Service directive that hunting and fishing be prohibited on federal lands during the partial shutdown, according to the report.

“Blame can go around for everybody,” Walker, a GOP leader contemplating a presidential bid, said recently when asked about the shutdown. “The best way to resolve it? Just look at what we did in Wisconsin. We had a $3.6 billion budget deficit. We now have more than half a billion surplus.”

Meanwhile, in Arizona, Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake can’t understand why federal authorities have refused Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s offer to use state money to keep the Grand Canyon open during the government shutdown.

Several businesses have made similar pledges, but they’ve been rejected by the National Park Service.

A park official said this week that as long as the federal government remains shut down, such a plan isn’t an option.

McCain and Flake sent a letter Friday to Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

The two Arizona Republicans say “federal statutes extend broad discretionary authority” for Sewell to accept donated funds for purposes of operating the national park system.

Late Friday, Brewer and state legislative leaders sent a letter to President Obama urging him to approve funding the Arizona park and other national parks.

The politicians said in a news release that at the very least they want the president to allow for state and private funding to reopen the parks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.




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