No, despite rumors, Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, says he is not out to close all national parks - nor is he specifically targeting Great Basin National Park on the Utah-Nevada border for closure.
He says press coverage of a speech he gave in Ogden before the election made people wonder - so he has sent an open letter to "Utah citizens" via the press to clarify his intentions.Hansen says he merely supports formation of a park closure commission - which would look at all 368 units of the national park system and decide which (if any) should be closed so that remaining portions could be better maintained.
It would be similar to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, which decides what military bases should be closed to save money.
"We've had a lot of calls from people who think he wants to close all the parks. That's not it at all," said Nancee Blockinger, his administrative assistant.
Allen Freemeyer, a Hansen aide on the House Natural Resources Committee, added, "He was giving a speech in Ogden where he was listing some likely action items of the committee. People picked up on this, because they can't believe people would close parks.
"But when they think of national parks, they think of Zion, Bryce, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. They don't realize there are 368 units of the system, or some of the things in it," he said.
Blockinger said someone at that speech mentioned that once someone has visited Great Basin National Park, they never have to go back. She said Hansen repeated the comment, which ended up in stories, which made many near the park worry he was targeting it.
Freemeyer said Hansen is targeting no park specifically, but is saying they should all be looked at so the government can develop criteria about what areas should be preserved in the park system, and which ones should not.
"In the last six years alone, Congress established 30 new park areas across the country," Hansen wrote. "While Congress is busy creating new parks, our crown jewels are falling into disrepair."