Retirees: NPS Documents Show Sequestration Cuts Would Turn National Parks Into "Ghost Towns"
$100 Million+ Cut Would Mean Decimating Ranger Ranks and/or Drastic Cuts in Service to Public, Including Reduced Hours and Shutdowns of Sections of Parks.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A National Park Service (NPS) memo and related budget documents independently acquired by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR) at http://www.npsretirees.org show that planning is 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.
"This is very troubling and it has the potential to turn already budget–strapped national parks into ghost towns," warned 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. 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."
Available online at http://www.npsretirees.org/images/rSequestration_memo1001.pdf, a January 25, 2013 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 available online at http://www.npsretirees.org/images/Attachment_1-park_program_and_office_reduction_2_sequestration.pdf 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.
CNPSR Public Affairs Director Joan Anzelmo, former superintendent of the Colorado National Monument, said: "This could not come at a worse time, with Americans set to return to national parks in big numbers in the spring and summer. 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."
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 – 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).
For another perspective on the projected NPS budgets cuts from sequestration, see the National Park Traveler at http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2013/01/national-park-service-says-looming-sequestration-will-impact-visitors-shorten-hours-operations-park-22751.
The over 900 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 deputy directors, regional directors, superintendents, 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.