Funding for America’s National Parks in jeopardy
GOODBYE RANGER! NPS RETIREES WARN THAT SEQUESTRATION WILL KILL AMERICA’S BEST IDEA: OUR NATIONAL PARKS – 8.3 Percent Cut Could Push Already Budget-Strapped National Parks Off the Fiscal Cliff
WASHINGTON, D.C. – December 12, 2012 – The 850-member Coalition of National Park Retirees (CNPSR) says that the impending “fiscal cliff” sequester — with a major 8.3 percent cut in park budgets – likely would result in the termination of thousands of seasonal park rangers and force the shutdown of some national parks.
But the damage to the national park experience for Americans would not stop there, CNPSR notes. Additionally there would be closures of campgrounds, visitor centers, termination of educational programs for schools, reduced maintenance and repair of buildings, roads and trails, reduced snow plowing, termination of invasive weed management programs, no backcountry patrols or ability to perform search and rescue operations and unpaid furloughs for permanent rangers and other staff as just a few examples of what these cuts will mean.
Seasonal employees who provide the bulk of visitor services in the national parks during the busy summer months would probably not be hired at all due to the lack of available funds. The 8.3 percent across the board cut mandated by the sequestration totals almost $190 million for the National Park Service. The 2013 budget for the National Park Service lists a nationwide total of $150 million for seasonal salaries which equates to about 9000 seasonal park rangers. The mandated sequester amount is already more than the available funds. Therefore it is likely that many parks would close or drastically reduce services in order to take another $40 million from the operating budgets to meet the $190 million sequester total.
In virtually every state in the country and several U.S. territories, there is at least one national park or National Park Service administered program that supports counties, states and territories. America’s national parks have enjoyed wide bipartisan support for well over a century, beginning with the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872.
The National Park Service now protects and manages some 398 units and welcomes more than 260 million visitors annually. 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.
The parks are robust economic generators for their communities and states. It makes no sense to hamstring the parks so badly that they no longer can generate the revenues for the country that they do or welcome the millions of Americans and international visitors who vacation and recreate in the national parks.
More Americans will risk losing their jobs that are so intertwined in keeping the parks open and adequately funded so millions of visitors will keep traveling to the national parks.
If Congress does not reach a budget deal for funding the federal government and sequestration begins, America’s beloved national parks will be directly affected and many national parks and their vital services to visitors will be shut down. The priceless natural and cultural resources they contain will be at risk. Hundreds of park rangers and other employees will lose their jobs including many veterans recently employed in the national parks.
Just two years ago, our country was celebrating the highly acclaimed Ken Burns documentary, The National Parks, America’s Best Idea. The idea remains among the best our country has ever had. Let’s hope Congress is reminded of the critically important role the national parks play in present day American life. We cannot risk losing these incomparable and uniquely American treasures.