Chair Grijalva, Representative Haaland lead letter to Interior Secretary urging closure of Grand Canyon, other parks and public lands at risk of coronavirus spread
Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee
Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Vice Chair Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) sent a letter yesterday with eight House Democratic colleagues to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt urging him to close Grand Canyon National Park and other national parks and public lands at risk of spreading coronavirus due to continued crowding and high visitation levels. The National Park Service and the Department of the Interior have left parts of Grand Canyon National Park open to visitors despite the fact that Grand Canyon Village recently reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19, and the letter’s authors note that many other federally managed parks and public lands are located in remote areas with few medical services.
Haaland, who chairs the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, has raised concerns in recent days about sites in her home state such as Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, where the All Pueblo Council of Governors has asked groups of visitors not to visit because of the threat posed to the nearby Cochiti Pueblo.
As the authors of yesterday’s letter write:
Warnings on the National Park Service website and the closure of some park facilities have not proven sufficient to protect public health, prompting grave concerns from federal employees and the local communities nearest our public lands. Many parks are located in rural areas where an outbreak would overrun community hospitals and their staff, making it imperative that we act now to reduce risk.
The letter, available online at https://bit.ly/2UM9JfM, is also signed by Representatives Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Jesús G. “Chuy” Garcia (D-Ill.) and Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.). Huffman chairs the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife; Lowenthal chairs the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources; and Gallego chairs the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States.
Guidance from state and local officials has not always been sufficient to limit public exposure on public lands. As of the letter’s publication, Grand Canyon National Park remains partially open and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has not formally requested full closure.