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Alexander Cosponsors Bill to Reimburse States for Cost of Reopening Nat’l Parks During 2013 Federal Shutdown

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; January 12, 2015:

Says Legislation Would Reimburse $60,000 To Tennessee For Blount And Sevier Counties

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2015 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today cosponsored legislation with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to reimburse states that provided their own funds to keep the national parks within their state open during the federal government shutdown in October 2013, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.

“The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of America’s greatest treasures, which was forced to be shut down during its prime tourist season, a time when the park welcomes the most visitors and the surrounding businesses make most of their money,” Alexander said. “This legislation would help relieve the pain caused in these areas and their surrounding communities and ensure Tennessee taxpayers won’t have to pay the price for keeping them open.”

The National Park Access Act would reimburse the six states (Arizona, Colorado, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah) that paid the National Park Service approximately $2 million of state and local money to keep the national parks in their states open during the federal government shutdown. Blount and Sevier Counties in Tennessee spent nearly $60,000 to reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

During the government shutdown, Alexander introduced similar legislation, The Protecting States, Opening National Parks Act,to reimburse states within 90 days for all state funds used to reopen national parks while the federal government was shut down. He also worked with the National Park Service, Gov. Haslam, Blount and Sevier counties, and other members of the Tennessee delegation to reopen the national parks and ensure Tennessee and other states would be reimbursed for opening their national parks during the shutdown. The Continuing Appropriations Act of 2014, which ended the shutdown, included $2 million in retroactive funding for the National Park Service to cover the payments made by the states. Today’s legislation gives the National Park Service the congressional authority it needs to refund this money back to the states, including the $60,000 for the state of Tennessee and Blount and Sevier Counties.

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Alexander Cosponsors Amendment to Extend Gun Rights on Federal Recreational Land

Press release from the Office of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander; July 10, 2014:

WASHINGTON, July 9, 2014 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today cosponsored an amendment by Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) that would allow a law-abiding citizen to carry a firearm on recreational lands owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in compliance with the firearms laws of the state.

“I see no good reason why the Corps should be allowed to discourage the use of nearly 12 million acres of land across the United States and deny the Second Amendment rights of Tennesseans who have enjoyed hunting, fishing and camping on these lands for generations,” Alexander said.

Wicker’s amendment to the Sportsmen’s Act would ensure the Army Corps’ policy towards firearms is consistent with the policy already in effect at National Park and National Wildlife Refuges. Currently, a person may possess firearms in a National Park or National Wildlife Refuge as long as they comply with the firearms laws of the park or refuge’s home state. However, these same rights are not extended to lands owned or managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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Kyle: Haslam Should Reconsider Shoring Up Head Start, Meals on Wheels w/ State Funds

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; October 17, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Now that Gov. Haslam has changed his position on using state dollars to make up federal funds lost during Washington’s budget crises, state Sen. Jim Kyle urged Gov. Haslam to revisit his position to allow sequestration cuts that reduce the availability of services like Head Start and Meals on Wheels.

“The governor is to be congratulated for his efforts to shore up our tourism industry as our state faced a catastrophic loss of funding for national parks during the shutdown,” Sen. Kyle said. “However, thousands of Tennessee families are still going hungry because of Washington’s dysfunction, and I am calling on the governor to take another look at the impact of cuts to Head Start and Meals on Wheels.

Several programs for the poor have steadily lost federal funding this year because of the sequestration cuts. Meals on Wheels has lost at least $1 million, and 1,200 children have lost seats in Head Start programs.

Last year, Gov. Haslam said he was unequivocally against using state dollars to make up the difference. On Nov. 20, he told the Nashville City Paper:

“In most of those cases when the federal money is taken away, the program that it’s funding will go away as well because we just literally, don’t have the state dollars to come in and replace all those federal dollars,” Haslam said.

“Now that the governor has changed his position, state leaders have a duty to working families and retired veterans who will continue to suffer due to Washington’s dysfunction, even after the shutdown ends,” Sen. Kyle said. “I am calling on the governor to revisit these programs and change his position.”

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TWRA Announces Closure of Federal Public Lands in TN

Press release from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency; October 1, 2013:

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is informing sportsmen that due to the federal governmental shutdown on Oct. 1, several federal public lands have been impacted.

All Tennessee national wildlife refuges, including Tennessee and Cross Creeks, are now closed. The permitted hunts will be canceled and the refuges will be closed to all public use. All refuge boat ramps are closed and refuges are closed to all fishing.

All refuge roads, observation decks, and hiking trails are closed to all access. All refuge offices and visitor centers are closed.

Land Between the Lakes remains open to hunting, back country camping, and hiking. However, all facilities that are normally staffed are closed. The process of evacuating all paid campgrounds is underway. The visitor centers are closed. Persons in need of a hunting permit will need to purchase those online or at a license agent other than the LBL visitor centers.

In regard to other areas, Fort Campbell hunting and fishing remains open at this time. Big South Fork is closed to the public. On both the North and South units of the Cherokee National Forest, all gates that are open will remain open although some campgrounds and restroom facilities may not be available.

The closures have come due to the lapse in appropriated funds, affecting all public lands managed by the Department of the Interior (National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, Bureau of Land Management facilities, etc.). For more information, FAQs, and updates, please visit www.doi.gov/shutdown.

Persons interested in visiting federal lands and facilities are advised to monitor media outlets for further and updated information.