ATLANTA, Feb. 1, 2013 — National parks could turn into ghost towns, should sequestration-related budget cuts come to fruition, warns the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR).
The group released documents indicating the National Park Service (NPS) would reduce the number of park rangers, services and park hours to comply with federal budget cuts.
Under sequestration, budget cuts totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years are set to take place starting March 1 unless Congress comes to an agreement agreement putting off or eliminating the automatic cuts. Sequestration was originally set to kick in at the start of the year, Congress on Jan. 1 agreed to a postponement.
“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,” NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis wrote in a Jan. 25 memo released by the group.
Jarvis directed parks to plan to cut 5 percent of their budgets and ordered an immediate hiring freeze (except for hires already in progress). Cuts would not be limited to smaller parks, and data release by CNPSR indicates prominent parks such as the Grand Canyon ($1.06 million), Yellowstone National Park ($1.75 million) and the National Mall and Memorial Park ($1.6 million) would see cuts.
“This is very troubling and it has the potential to turn already budget–strapped national parks into ghost towns,” CNPSR Chair Maureen Finnerty said in a statement. “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.
“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,” added Finnerty, former superintendent of Everglades National Park.
According to CNPSR, national parks nationwide generate 258,000 private sector jobs and $31 billion in private sector spending. To comply with a 5 percent cut, the NPS would have to cut roughly $110 million, according to CNPSR.
“This could not come at a worse time, with Americans set to return to national parks in big numbers in the spring and summer,” CNPSR Public Affairs Director Joan Anzelmo, former superintendent of the Colorado National Monument, said in a release. “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 a National Park system.”
Todd DeFeo is an award-winning reporter and marketer, but his true passion is seeking out the bizarre roadside attractions, one-of-a-kind roadhouses and unique destinations that make the world worth exploring. He is also editor of The Travel Trolley travel blog.
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