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Live Mic: What will reopening the national parks be like?

FILE - This Sept. 15, 2015, file photo, shows Zion National Park near Springdale, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — National parks are now closed in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories — so what will reopening them take?

Last week, President Donald Trump announced that parks and public lands will reopen gradually, but the timeline is unclear for states that have not relaxed their stay-at-home orders.

Rob Wallace, assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, joins Lee Lonsberry on Live Mic to discuss what reopening the national parks could look like during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Parks seem like a pretty good place to practice social distancing. A lot of acreage there, a lot of wide-open spaces. Yet they remain closed. How realistic is a reopening of the national parks across the country?” Lee asked.

“If you think about our national parks, there’s no place better on the planet to be inspired, to be healed or just to go out and play and have fun. So you could argue that at a time like this we need parks more than at any other time maybe in their 100-plus-year history.  I think we’re all in agreement that we ought to find a way to safely — and I can’t emphasize that more — safely to get people back into our parks,” Wallace said.

Soft reopening of national parks

“What will the experience be like for park-goers once the parks reopen? Will masks be required or gloves, anything like that?” Lee asked.

Wallace said park superintendents are now having discussions about what reopening the national parks will look like.

“It will be different. It won’t be like the summer of 2019. I’m quite confident of that,” he said.

He added Utah and other nearby states won’t welcome international visitors for a while. He said initially perhaps the visitor centers won’t be open and the number of campsites would likely be limited.

“Everybody’s working on how to get that done safely,” Wallace said.

2.3M acres open to hunting and fishing

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced earlier this month the expansion of hunting and fishing across 2.3 million acres in 97 national wildlife refuges and nine national fish hatcheries, which is part of the Trump administration’s efforts to increase recreational access on public lands. The move represents the single largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in history.

“Can you talk to me about that expansion?” Lee asked.

“It’s terrific for a number of reasons. I grew up in Evanston, Wyoming, and used to hunt and fish right outside of the town boundaries, and some of those lands are not available anymore because of new landowners and new regulations.

“To entice younger people into enjoying sport hunting and fishing, you need access to land,” he said. “And the fact that these public lands are going to be available to the next generation of sportsmen is terrific.

“Not only does it give them the chance to be outdoors,” Wallace said, “but most of the revenue that funds state game and fish agencies comes from excise taxes on ammunition, rifles, fishing tackle.

“Without growing the base of new sportsmen, those revenues are going to dwindle and put all of these resources somewhat at risk,” he said.

Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.

Coronavirus resources


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States