The federal government is again up and running, for now at least. The open sign may flip back over in mid January, when the current agreement expires.

Assuming that Congress continues its divisive ways, who will bet against another government shutdown?

So shouldn’t people in Arizona and other Western states begin right now to work on ways to mitigate the effect of another shutdown on popular national parks and other federally managed lands and waters? The shutdown of iconic places like the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and Lake Mead was damaging to local economies. For many people, it appeared the closure of these beloved recreation areas was a way for the federal government to make the partial shutdown as painful as possible.

Immediately following the shutdown, there were attempts made by Republicans to get national parks and monuments reopened. Those efforts, along with other pushes to reopen the parts of government, were rejected as a piecemeal approach.

Several states, most notably Utah and Arizona, then stepped in to reopen some parks by sending money to Washington, D.C., to cover operating costs. It was a good approach.

But shouldn’t states with large amounts of federal lands and recreation areas, work now to address another likely shutdown?

Using their own legislatures to authorize the action and their congressional representatives and senators, the Western states should push for an alternative operating plan for these national treasures in the event of another shutdown.

That plan should be in place before another shutdown happens. People around this country and world shouldn’t face uncertainty in planning a trip to see one of these federally run national wonders. It’s in that uncertainty and hesitation that more visitor money is lost.

Passage of this plan should happen quickly and should be communicated widely to help assure that the dysfunction in the Capitol isn’t damaging to the workers and businesses and communities in the West.

It’s funny, but just over a year ago, Arizona voters rejected a proposition calling for Arizona to take over all federal lands within Arizona. (Forty-four percent of all the land in the state, by the way.) Last year’s proposition was a reaction to perceived federal political agendas that took little account of economic and social effects in communities near federal lands and waters.

We wonder how that vote would go today?

Rather than dealing with another shutdown in crisis mode, it’s important to have a plan to keep these popular recreational areas open while the politicians play financial games back in D.C.

(The Lake Havasu City, Ariz.-based Today’s News-Herald is a sister publication of the Nogales International.)

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