Bill: Wyoming Would Take Over Parks During a Shutdown
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The state would operate national parks and other federal facilities if the federal government ever shuts down again under a proposal pending in the Wyoming Legislature.
Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are located in the state.
Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, this past week introduced Senate File 148, which would empower the governor to seize federal facilities, except military installations, until the federal shutdown ends.
Scott said a shutdown puts the state at the mercy of the federal government when it comes to the tourism industry. And given how big an impact closing off federal parks like Yellowstone and Devils Tower National Monument would have on the economy, Scott said Wyoming needs to be ready to act.
"If that happened to us in the middle of the tourist season, and Yellowstone got shut down, my God, that would just wreck our tourist industry, do a tremendous amount of economic damage," he said.
Having a state keep federal parks open during a shutdown isn't out of the norm, said Sam Kalen, a professor at the University of Wyoming's College of Law. Governments, nonprofits and other groups have worked with the federal government to provide services on federal lands for various reasons.
But Kalen said it was unquestionably unconstitutional for the state to seize federal lands for any reason.
"That is a problem. They can't seize federal property; they don't have the authority to do that," he said. "This is maybe just an effort to start a dialogue in the future. But right now, as it's drafted, this bill would be problematic."
Scott dismissed any concerns about the constitutionality of his proposal, saying the idea is to help out the federal government, citizens and the tourism industry.
"We're trying to be cooperative. But when push comes to shove, we're not going to let the foolishness of Washington stand in the way of using a little common sense," he said.