Glacier National Park

From a vantage outside the closed gates of the national park, peaks in Glacier reflect in the Flathead River.

PERRY BACKUS/Ravalli Republic

HELENA – Gov. Steve Bullock on Thursday said he has no interest in allowing national parks in Montana to be reopened if the state has to pick up the costs until the federal shutdown ends.

“Of course not,” said Bullock, a Democrat. “When I say that it’s long past time to open up the government and end this reckless and job-killing shutdown, I mean the entire government – benefits for the families of service members killed in combat, ‘open’ signs at Social Security offices and resumed use of our national parks.”

Earlier Thursday, the Obama administration, facing requests from some governors, said national parks could reopen – if states use their own funds to cover park operations. Governors of Arizona, Colorado, South Dakota and Utah have sought federal authority reopen national parks within their borders because of the economic impact of the closures, the Associated Press reported.

In communities west and east of Glacier National Park, many motels and lodges already were closed for the fall anyway.

Kevin Gartland, executive director of the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce, said the organization doesn’t have an official position on the issue.

“If this was July or August, we’d be up in arms,” Gartland said. “We’d be doing whatever we could with the governor to keep the tourism going. It’s a vital part of the economy for the entire state.”

It’s not as critical now, Gartland said.

Greg Raymond, one of the golf pros at Meadow Lake Resort in Columbia Falls, said the park shutdown hasn’t really affected the resort, which is a golf course.

Attempts were unsuccessful to reach a number of owners of motels and lodges in West Glacier and East Glacier. Voice messages from some said their establishments were closed for the season.

Later Thursday, U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said he planned to introduce legislation to ensure that states are fully reimbursed within 90 days for any state funds spent to pay for National Park operations.

He cited the economic importance of the national parks and tourism to many Montana communities and those in other states.

“Glacier and Yellowstone national parks not only represent an important part of Montana’s heritage, they are important drivers of our state’s economy,” Daines said.

“While I’m pleased that the Obama administration has finally relented and allowed individual states to get our national parks open again, it’s unacceptable that a state like Montana could be forced to bear even more of a financial burden because of Washington’s failures. My legislation will protect states and ensure they receive full compensation for their work to reopen our national park gates.”

Chuck Johnson is chief of the Lee Newspapers State Bureau in Helena. He can be reached by email at: chuck.johnson@lee.net or by phone at (406) 447-4066 or (800) 525-4920.

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