New Details Emerge: How Sequestration Will Hurt Visitors To America's Top National Parks
Over 1 Million Visitors to Experience Cuts at 12 Leading National Parks; Coalition of National Park Service Retirees Once Again Gets Early Read on Impact of Sequestration/
WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Sequestration will cut visitor access to the rim of the Grand Canyon, significantly delay the spring opening of key portions of Yellowstone and Yosemite, reduce emergency response help for drivers in the Great Smoky Mountains, limit access to the beach at the Cape Cod National Seashore, and impair the experiences in many other ways for millions of visitors at America's national parks. In addition, local, regional and state economies that depend on national parks will take huge hits as visitors are either turned away or skip visits due to the impact of the mindless sequestration budget cuts.
According to new National Park Service (NPS) information acquired by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR), details are now emerging for how sequestration-related cuts will be implemented in America's national parks. Late last month, CNPSR drew attention to the NPS sequester cuts when it published internal NPS memos outlining the total dollar cuts that would be imposed on individual national parks.
Now the specific impact of the sequestration meat-cleaver on America's national parks is becoming clearer and even more alarming.
Sequestration will result in a much reduced workforce, shutdowns of certain national park areas altogether or for extended period of times, closure of visitor centers and services, restrictions on the availability of campgrounds, visitor centers, comfort stations, and trail and other backcountry access. Additionally, the ability to respond to emergencies including wildland fires will be sharply reduced.
CNPSR Spokesperson, Joan Anzelmo, former Superintendent of Colorado National Monument said: "Congress might just as well put a big "Keep Out !" sign at the entrance to Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the Cape Cod Seashore, and every other iconic national park in the U.S. This foolhardy path tarnishes America's 'crown jewels' and is a repudiation of the nation's national parks often touted as 'America's best idea'. Millions of Americans depend on national parks for their vacations and livelihood. Those Americans are being told that national parks don't count … that people who use national parks don't count … and that people who live and work near national parks don't count."
New NPS information highlights the following specific cuts at major parks:
- Yellowstone National Park in WY, MT & ID will delay spring road opening operations inside the park and to the west, south, east, and northeast entrances. Savings would come from a combination of reduced or delayed seasonal hiring, extended unpaid furloughs for employees, and reduced operating expenses including fuel, equipment and maintenance. Access from the west (from US 20 & 191 West Yellowstone, MT), from the south (US 287/89, Jackson, WY thru Grand Teton National Park) and the east (US 20, Cody, WY) would be delayed 2-3 weeks. Access from the northeast via the Chief Joseph Highway (near Cody, WY) and Beartooth Highway (near Red Lodge, MT) would be delayed 3-4 weeks. Visitor access to Grant Village and Yellowstone Lake would be delayed 2-3 weeks. Combined, these delays will affect over 78,000 visitors, reduce park fee revenue by more than $150,000 and have significant economic impacts to concessioners and gateway communities.
- Grand Canyon National Park in AZ will delay opening the East and West Rim Drives and reduce hours of operation at the main Grand Canyon Visitor Center. This will immediately affect over 250,000 visitors. Grand Canyon receives approximately five million visitors annually.
- Yosemite National Park in CA, will delay the opening of the Tioga and Glacier Point roads by as much as four weeks due to limitations on snow removal resulting from reduced staffing which will impact thousands of visitors. In 2011, Yosemite National Park had a near record 4,098,648 visitors.
- Glacier National Park in MT will delay opening the Going-to-the-Sun Road by two weeks, the only road which provides access to the entire park. In previous instances, closures of Going-to-the-Sun Road have resulted in financial distress for surrounding communities and concessions well into millions in lost revenues.
- Grand Teton National Park in WY will close the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve, and the Flagg Ranch Visitor Contact Station, for the summer season affecting over 300,000 visitors. Additionally, the park's cooperating association, the Grand Teton Association will lose $225,000 in sales revenue as a result of the closures.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park in NC & TN will close five campgrounds and picnic areas affecting over 54,000 visitors. Additionally, the reduction in staff will result in reduced road maintenance and increased time for emergency responses to activities such as accidents, rockslides, ice, and hazardous tree removal for more than 35,000 vehicles per day on several heavily traveled routes in the Cades Cove District as well as the thoroughfares between Gatlinburg, TN and Pigeon Forge, TN and between Gatlinburg, TN and Cherokee, NC.
- Cape Cod National Seashore in MA will close the Province Lands Visitor Center for the season due to inability to staff and maintain it. Normal operating hours are daily, early May through late October. This closure will affect over 260,000 visitors. Additionally, visitor access to large sections of the Great Beach will be reduced and restricted in order to protect the nesting shorebirds. The nesting birds require daily monitoring, which a reduced staff could not provide.
- Natchez Trace Parkway in MS, AL & TN a reduction in seasonal employees will cause closure of 25 comfort stations one day per week, affecting more than 200,000 visitors.
- Mount Rainier National Park in WA will close the Ohana Visitor Center due to inability to staff and maintain it, affecting upwards of 85,000 visitors.
- Denali National Park in AK will have seasonal staff shortages resulting in delayed plowing operations of Denali's spring road, postponing the opening of the Eielson Visitor Center. This would impact over 3,500 visitors per day and would significantly affect revenue for local businesses.
CNPSR obtained and made public a National Park Service (NPS) memo and related budget documents on January 31, 2013, revealing that planning is already underway for sequestration-related budget cuts that would sharply reduce the ranks of Park Rangers and also result in deep cuts in park hours and a host of other key services that park visitors expect to receive.
According to preliminary CNPSR estimates, a 5 percent cut under sequestration 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 – roughly four and a half weeks.
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 (NPS) that receives just 1/15th of 1 percent of the total federal budget (and declining).
The over 860 members of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees are all former employees of the National Park Service with a combined 25,000 years of stewardship of America's most precious natural and cultural resources. In their personal lives, CNPSR members reflect the broad spectrum of skills and expertise that distinguished their National Park Service careers. CNPSR members now strive to apply their credibility and integrity as they speak out for national park solutions that uphold law and apply sound science. The Coalition counts among its members: former National Park Service deputy directors, regional directors, superintendents, park rangers and other career professionals who devoted an average of nearly 30 years each to protecting and interpreting America's national parks on behalf of the public. For more information, visit the CNPSR Web site at http://www.npsretirees.org.
SOURCE Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, Washington, D.C.