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Shutdown appears to near end; parks may reopen soon

Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks may be open this weekend after Congress moved to end the partial government shutdown Wednesday.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he would allow a vote to end the shutdown and prevent possible economic disaster with a United States’ default on bills. Boehner urged other Republicans in the House to join with him in a vote Wednesday evening.

If the shutdown ends, 401 national parks and monuments, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton, may open quickly. If word came down via the chain of command, Yellowstone could reopen in a matter of hours, said Yellowstone Park spokesman Al Nash.

Services would be limited, but services in the last weeks of the summer season are limited in the park anyway, Nash said. He said Yellowstone personnel are eager to unlock the gates.

“Our staff certainly is focusing on being prepared to execute the tasks we need to get the park opened to visitors,” Nash said.

Christy Fleming, chief interpretive ranger for Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, told the Powell Tribune Wednesday afternoon that the staff there was also eager to get back to work.

“If we get the call, we’ll be up and running pretty quick,” Fleming said.

Technically, National Park Service employees have 24 hours from the time the shutdown is lifted to open the gates, but if they were informed by midnight, they could have the entrance barricade lifted and the visitor center opened by Thursday afternoon, Fleming said.

However, on Oct. 1, as the 16-day shutdown started, Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott said the reopening might take some time. Parks would have to know funding is in place, she said.

“It will be a ramp-up process,” Scott said then.

Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., told the Tribune she feels the bill will pass, but that she planned to vote against it unless it was amended to deal with some of her concerns about spending.

“I have just received a copy of the bill and I am reading it now. I am inclined to say I will be voting no,” Lummis said Wednesday afternoon. “There is again just an effort to kick the can down the road when dealing with the significant issues when we hit the debt ceiling.”

She said some effort should have been made to increase the government’s fiscal responsibility. Lummis said she expected the bill to pass, and there is a silver lining to it moving through the House despite her objections.

“I do favor reopening the government,” she said.

The Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, planned to vote Wednesday evening on a bill to fund the government until Jan. 15 and raise the debt limit until Feb. 7 to avert a possible default. The bill also calls for tightening verification measures for people who receive Obamacare subsidies.

Prior to the shutdown, all Yellowstone entrances were scheduled to close for the summer Nov. 4, except the North Gate just south of Gardiner, Mont., and Northeast Gate providing winter egress for Silver Gate and Cooke City, Mont. residents.

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