The Trump administration said Friday that national parks would remain open if the government shuts down this weekend, but staff members there won’t be paid.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tweeted Thursday that the department would aim to keep public lands "as accessible as safely possible under the law."
“We fully expect the government to continue operations however in the event of a shutdown #publiclands will be as accessible as safely possible under the law,” Zinke said in a tweet.
Spokeswoman Heather Swift clarified that areas that can stay open with limited personnel support would do so, while parts of parks that need snow removal or regular maintenance would close, such as camping sites.
Government funding expires at midnight Friday if Congress cannot agree to a new funding bill.
National parks were closed during shutdowns in 1995 and 2013, prompting a huge public outcry. In both of those cases, Republicans controlled Congress and a Democratic president sat in the White House.
Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney pledged in an interview on Fox Business this week that a shutdown “would look very different under a Republican administration than it would under a Democrat.”
In the 2013 shutdown, in one memorable instance, officials roped off the National World War II memorial on the National Mall, prompting a showdown between visiting veterans and the National Park Service.
“We are going to manage the shutdown differently,” Mulvaney said, claiming that the Obama administration had “weaponized” the 2013 shutdown by making it as costly as possible.
An advocacy group of more than 1,400 current, former and retired employees of the National Park Service criticized the Trump administration's plan for national parks, arguing they can't be well-managed without a fully functioning — and paid — staff.
“We're disappointed that Congress and the administration cannot agree on a budget and that the national parks are being used as a bargaining chip in the process,” said the Coalition to Protect America's National Parks. “A budget must be passed so that the full array of services available at our national parks should remain available to the visiting public. If a budget is not passed, opening the parks without a full complement of staff will put the invaluable resources contained in the parks and the public at risk.”