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National Parks Report: Nearby Towns Lost Nearly Half-Billion Dollars During Shutdown

Towns around national parks lost an estimated $414 million during the partial government shutdown last October, according to a report released Monday by the National Park Service. But surrounding communities say the shutdown wasn't a complete loss.

Most of the country's national parks locked their gates for 16 days last fall. It was one of the most visible and immediate effects of the standoff over spending in Congress. Some states scrambled to find money to keep iconic parks open and to keep the tourist dollars flowing to hotels, outfitters, grocery stores and gas stations.

Thousands of tourists pass through Idaho Falls every year on their way to Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Park, which remained closed during the shutdown. Michelle Holt of the area Chamber of Commerce says the region did take a hit, but there was a positive side, at least at first.

“People who had been planning additional time in the parks during that couple of weeks and then couldn't get in there, that meant they spent additional time in those bordering communities hoping that, ‘Well, maybe tomorrow it'll be open, and we'll be able to get in,’” Holt said.

Still, the National Park Service says the system lost out on nearly eight million visitors, and nearby communities lost nearly $500 million.

The agency also released 2012 figures on the total economic contribution from national parks, monuments and recreation areas. In Washington, home to three national parks, it rang up at $530 million. Idaho saw an estimated $30 million and Oregon saw $80 million.

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.