Staffing, hours could be cut drastically
By Summit Voice
FRISCO —Failure to develop a long-term budget deal would hit the National Park Service hard, as the agency would be forced to slash staff, cut park hours and reduce other key services expected by visitors, according to documents obtained by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.
“This is very troubling and it has the potential to turn already budget–strapped national parks into ghost towns,” said CNPSR Chair Maureen Finnerty, former superintendent of Everglades National Park. “This would be devastating for America’s national parks, for the nearly 300 million Americans who visit them, and for the irreplaceable natural and cultural resources the parks were established to protect,” Finnerty said.
“Additionally there will be steep impacts to the private sector – the hundreds of concession businesses operating inside of the parks, the stores operated by cooperating associations in park visitor centers, not to mention the economies of the communities adjacent to parks and entire states that depend so heavily on both tourism and other spending done by the parks,” she added.
A January 25 memo from NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis instructs NPS officials to begin implementing sequestration budget cut planning. Jarvis writes: We expect that a cut of this magnitude, intensified by the lateness of the implementation, will result in reductions to visitor services, hours of operation, shortening of seasons and possibly the closing of areas during periods when there is insufficient staff to ensure the protection of visitors, employees, resources, and government assets.”
An accompanying NPS chart shows National Parks that are facing some of the most significant across-the-board cuts from sequestration. Ten of the most iconic National Parks facing severe cuts are: Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming/Montana/Idaho) $1.75 million; National Mall and Memorial Park (Washington, D.C.) $1.6 million; Yosemite National Park (California) $1.43 million; Gateway National Recreation Area (New York) $1.25 million; Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona) $1.06 million; Independence National Historic Park (Pennsylvania) $1.18 million; Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina and Tennessee) $944,000; Everglades National Park (Florida) $841,000; Shenandoah National Park (Virginia) $622,000; and Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota) $201,000.
“This could not come at a worse time, with Americans set to return to national parks in big numbers in the spring and summer,” said CNPSR public affairs director Joan Anzelmo, a former superintendent at Colorado National Monument. “We sympathize with current National Park staffers, who are feeling an acute sense of chaos building as they run in circles trying to figure out so late in the fiscal year how to meet these harsh cuts, protect park resources and serve the public. This is no way to run America’s National Park System.”
According to preliminary CNPSR estimates, a 5 percent cut to the $2.2 billion that would be remaining in the final seven months of the NPS budget would require slashing $110 million. The total budget for all non-permanent park staffs is only $150 million. If the pain of the cuts was spread across non-permanent and permanent employees in parks, it would require cutting thousands of jobs or furloughing everyone for more than a month.
Nationwide, national parks support local economies in a significant way, generating $31 billion in private sector spending and 258,000 private sector jobs each year. Many parks are located in rural areas that are very dependent on these expenditures to maintain a healthy economy. CNPSR pointed to these numbers as a noteworthy and positive impact on the national economy from an agency that receives just 1/15th of 1 percent of the total federal budget (and declining).
For another perspective on the projected NPS budgets cuts from sequestration, read this story in National Park Traveler.