South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) sent a letter Monday to the director of the National Parks Service offering to use state resources and personnel to keep Mount Rushmore open during the government shutdown.
“If the federal government is unable to keep Mount Rushmore open, the State of South Dakota will provide state personnel and resources to keep the Memorial open,” Daugaard wrote. “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.”
He added in closing, “Mount Rushmore is a national treasure and is a special location for South Dakotans and citizens across the country.”
As the Argus Leader’s David Montgomery noted, it wasn’t the first time Daugaard extended such an offer to the federal government. With the threat of a shutdown looming back in 2011, Daugaard pledged state resources to keep Mount Rushmore open but was turned down by the National Parks Service.
Daugaard was probably wise to not act unilaterally though. When the government shut down in 1995, then-Arizona Gov. Fife Symington (R) deployed National Guard troops to fill in at the Grand Canyon for furloughed National Park Service workers before the Department of Interior ordered him to stop.
Mount Rushmore draws more than three million visitors annually, making it South Dakota’s top tourist attraction. The monument closed its doors to visitors Tuesday morning, the result of the first federal government shutdown since 1996.