President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that national parks will begin reopening as states move to begin relaxing coronavirus restrictions in the upcoming weeks.
The Republican president made the announcement during a tree-planting ceremony held on the South Lawn of the White House in recognition of Earth Day and Arbor Day.
“Thanks to our significant progress against the invisible enemy, I am pleased to announce that in line with my administration’s guidelines for opening up America again we will begin to reopen our national parks and public lands for the American people to enjoy,” Trump said.
Vice President Mike Pence added that the administration will “work closely with governors” to reopen the parks and public lands “so that the American people can enjoy the blessings of these extraordinary places.”
During his remarks, Trump asked Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to give a timeline for reopening the parks. Bernhardt said the decisions would be made alongside governors’ plans to reopen the states.
“You have a lot of land to open up, too,” Trump said. “People are going to be very happy.”
The National Park Service has closed many parks across the country, including the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, to try to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“The NPS is working with federal, state, and local authorities, while we as a nation respond to this public health challenge,” NPS Deputy Director David Vela said.
“Park superintendents are assessing their operations now to determine how best to protect the people and their parks going forward.”
The wildlife in popular parks like Yosemite National Park is enjoying the closures.
“For the most part, I think [the bears] are having a party,” Ranger Katie, a wildlife biologist, said in a Facebook Live video.
“This time of year is difficult for the animals here. There can be literally walls of cars, stop-and-go traffic, or people in the park.”
The White House unveiled a set of “guidelines” for U.S. governors for reopening the nation’s economy last Thursday.
“You’re going to call your own shots,” Trump told the governors, according to The New York Times. “We’ll be standing right alongside of you and we’re going to get our country open and get it working. People want to get working.”
The specific guidelines drawn up by the White House and distributed to the governors, titled “Opening Up America Again,” do not include any specific dates for getting things back to normal.
They are “implementable on statewide or county-by-county basis at governors’ discretion,” the White House said, meaning Trump is leaving it up to the governors to decide whether to put them in place, and when.
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