That would stand in sharp contrast to the last government shutdown, in 2013, when officials closed park entrances, erected barriers around national monuments and dispatched law enforcement to turn away visitors. Among the defining images of that shutdown were children locked out of parks and veterans protesting at barricades in front of the World War II Memorial in Washington.
At the time, Republicans, who controlled the House, accused Democratic President Barack Obama of closing the parks out of "spite" as each side sought to blame the other over the funding impasse.
The new policy could limit those pictures -- and perhaps public reaction to a shutdown.
Under the new plans, public lands would "try to allow limited access wherever possible," Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift told CNN.
"The American public and especially our veterans who come to our nation's capital should find war memorials and open air parks open to the public," Swift added.
In a shutdown, nearly every nonessential function of the government closes. Federal employees are instructed to cancel meetings, turn off their phones and lock up buildings. Among the few exceptions are critical law enforcement and national security activities.
As recently as September, the last time the National Park Service updated and published its shutdown plans, the agency noted that a shutdown would cause it to "close and secure national park facilities and grounds."
"Wherever possible, park roads will be closed and access will be denied," the September plan said.
The Interior Department, which controls about one-fifth of all land in the US, primarily through the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management, said different facilities would handle the shutdown differently.
Park roads that have already been cleared of snow, for example, would remain open, but new plowing could not take place. Park-run visitor centers would close, but privately run gift shops, restaurants and lodges may remain open, the department said.
The Washington Post
reported the proposal Thursday.