More than 400 parks and monuments across the US are affected by the partial shutdown of the federal government.
The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) gives the NPS broad authority to decide how to use funds collected from park fees, according to Regan. Many parks remained open for the shutdown, but there were no visitor services, restrooms, trash collection, facilities or road maintenance, the National Park Service said.
Visitors like Sherry Gray, a retired professor from Minnesota, applauded efforts to ensure the parks are open.
"The NPS now has funds derived from entrance, camping, parking and other fees collected from park visitors that would typically be used for future projects at parks".
U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a New Mexico Democrat and new chairman of the House Resources Committee, was quoted in the Washington Post questioning the legality of using the maintenance funds for operations. A third person died last week, after a tree fell on her and her 6-year-old son in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, according to the Associated Press. "The president expects them to either pay more to keep the toilets clean out of their own pockets or pay millions of dollars for his ridiculous wall".
A Park Service official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid, said that the Interior Department's solicitor had authorized the move in an opinion, but did not provide the document.
On its website, the National Parks Service says entrance fees are "used to enhance the visitor experience".
The state of Utah has teamed up with nonprofits, including the Zion National Park Forever Project and the Bryce Canyon Natural History Association, and local government, such as Washington County and the City of St. George, to offer skeleton services.
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While none of these efforts can replace the full force of the National Parks services, the volunteer-led initiatives show that Americans will always be willing to take care of its lands and communities when adversity arises.
The decision comes after reports of degradation in the parks - trash thrown on the ground, human waste piling up, and visitors behaving irresponsibly by letting their dogs off leash or even driving off-road to do donuts in the desert.
"We aren't releasing more detail because the incident remains under investigation, which is taking longer than usual because of the shutdown", Munoz said.
"It's incredibly concerning that the Acting Interior Secretary is putting political pressure on superintendents to keep parks open at the expense of parks' long-term needs and protection", Pierno said. "Draining accounts dry is not the answer".
The Shenandoah National Park Trust is providing emergency funding to clean port-a-potties twice a week at the park.
The news of the National Park Service's decision brought some relief to his wife. On Sunday, Mount Rainier National Park announced that it was closing motor vehicle access beyond the park entrance because its main concession operator had stopped picking up trash and cleaning the bathrooms, and because snow was starting to accumulate.
With no one to clean, empty and maintain the trashcans and bathrooms, Zaharias anxious that trash - and human feces - would pile up and conditions would worsen to the point of shuttering the park.