Yesterday, Gov. Dennis Daugaard released a letter to the federal government offering to use state and private resources to keep parts of Mount Rushmore open to visitors:
“Mount Rushmore is a national treasure and is a special location for South Dakotans and citizens across the country,” Gov. Daugaard said in the letter. “I am confident state government could work with the federal government and private vendors to securely and competently manage Mount Rushmore during a federal shutdown.”
It was an easy letter to write. Daugaard’s made the same offer before.
He also knows how it will end. In 2011, the National Park Service turned him down:
"We thank the governor for his offer and appreciate his support for the national parks," (said) Kendra Barkoff, press secretary for the Department of the Interior… "Unfortunately, if Congress is not able to reach agreement and the federal government is shut down, all national parks would have to be closed."
There’s no reason to think anything will be different this time. So while Daugaard doubtlessly is sincere in his offer and is probably right that it would be more sensible to find a way to keep Mount Rushmore open, making the public offer again this time has a large element of politics.
UPDATE: Here’s the rationale for why the federal government will decline Daugaard’s offer again, from Time’s account of the 1995 shutdown:
The budget impasse was becoming known as the Washington fight that closed down the Grand Canyon, and Arizona Governor Fife Symington was having none of it. Friday morning, Symington ordered National Guard troops to the canyon to “render assistance” until furloughed National Park Service workers return. A few hours later, the Interior Department ordered the governor to stand down. If the Guard did it for the Grand Canyon, Interior’s lawyers reasoned, they would have to do it for all 369 parks and monuments in the country. “Once that started snowballing, you couldn’t control it,” said Park Service spokesman David Barna in Washington. “People who want to see Independence Hall want to see it as bad as the people who want to see the Grand Canyon.”