Zion National Park

In this July 27, 2015, file photo, a long line of hikers head out of the Grand Canyon along the Bright Angel Trail at Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. The National Park Service is floating a proposal to increase entrance fees at 17 of its most popular sites next year. 

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah leaders are resigned to the fact that they are likely to never be repaid the nearly $1 million the state spent in 2013 to keep its popular national parks open during a government shutdown.

It would take an act of Congress to get repaid, and Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop acknowledges other priorities have largely overtaken the issue that was once the subject of serious consternation, The Salt Lake Tribune reported .

"But it's still unfair," Bishop said, adding he might try to revive the issue before his tenure as House Natural Resources Committee chairman ends when Democrats take control of the U.S. House next year.

Utah wasn't the only state to reopen the parks on their own dime during the 16-day shutdown. Others that sent the federal government money to keep the lights on included Colorado, Arizona and New York. None was reimbursed.

The 2013 closure was largely blamed on Utah's GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas, who were determined to block funding for President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

Along with furloughing hundreds of thousands of federal workers and shuttering offices, the Obama administration closed national parks, saying it would be unsafe for visitors without park rangers on hand.

But with the large role Utah's parks play in the state's tourism economy, leaders didn't want to let them go dark. Gov. Gary Herbert said he'd do it all over again if he had to.

"While we would love to be reimbursed for those funds, it was money well-spent," Herbert said. The state has a total budget of about $17 million.

The state wired nearly $1.7 million to the federal government to keep the parks open. Of that, $600,000 wasn't spent and was returned to the state.

The agreements with Utah and other states did not require reimbursement, but U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he would be glad to pay it back if Congress passed legislation.

Zinke worked to keep most parks open during a two-day government shutdown in January, and Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift says he has been critical of the decision allowing the parks to close in 2013.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(1) comment

Clip The Man

Utah state budget isn't about 17 million it's about 17 billion. So, instead of having paid out about 10% of the state budget, they only paid out about 0.01%. That number puts it in perspective. https://le.utah.gov/interim/2018/pdf/00002208.pdf

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