If Congress can’t agree on a deficit-reduction plan soon, vacationers heading to the country’s national parks this spring and summer could find reduced staffs, shorter visiting hours and even closings.
CNBC reported that a January memo from the National Park Service states that nearly $110 million would have to be immediately eliminated from the park services’ $2.2 billion budget due to sequestration— the mandated budget cuts scheduled to take place March 1.
Among the parks facing the most severe cuts are Yellowstone, Yosemite, the National Mall and Memorial Park in Washington, D.C., the Grand Canyon, the Everglades, the Great Smoky Mountains and Mount Rushmore.
On the chopping block for reduction or elimination are national park ranger jobs, maintenance crews and stores operated at visiting centers. Parks that remain open would have limited bathrooms facilities, fewer open trails and available camping spots.
Nearly 300 million people visit the parks each year and generate some $31 billion in spending and help support around 258,000 related private sector jobs.
Reductions in the park budget will reduce those numbers as well, said Joan Anzelmo, spokesperson for the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, a non-profit group of former park workers.
“This couldn’t come at a worse time as people plan trips for the summer and spring,” Anzelmo said. “We’re looking at delayed park openings because there won’t be enough staff to open and even closings if there aren’t enough people to maintain them.”
“These cuts would be devastating to the parks and the local economies,” Anzelmo argued. “The budget for the parks is pretty slim as it is now, and further cuts will put the parks in jeopardy. Jobs will be lost and spending will go down. This is no way to run a National Park system.”
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