1. News & Issues
Robert Longley

Will Sequestration Make US Parks Ghost Towns?

By February 8, 2013

Follow me on:

Unless Congress acts by March 1, the dreaded government spending "sequestration" will strip over 5% from the overall National Parks Service (NPS) budget, a cut retired Parks Service employees warn may turn many of the nation's most-visited parks into "ghost towns."

In a memo obtained by the Coalition of National Parks Service Retirees (CNPSR), NPS director Jonathan Jarvis instructed national park officials to get ready for getting by with a lot less money.

"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," he wrote.

According to a budget planning spreadsheet accompanying his memo, NPS director Jarvis details how the expected service-wide 5% sequestration-driven budget cut will impact the various national parks.

Hardest hit by sequestration, Yellowstone National Park would be forced to deal with a cut of $1.75 million from its current $35 million FY 2013 operating budget.

According to a recent report from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), sequestration would force the Park Service to cut a total of $183 million from its annual budget, including $13 million from its construction budget, $5 million from its National Recreation and Preservation program, $8 million from Land Acquisition and State Assistance program, $5 million from its Historic Preservation program, and $4 million from other programs.

To get ready for the looming budget cut, Jarvis directed the parks to stop hiring new permanent employees, stop authorizing payment of overtime, suspend purchases of new equipment and extend current employee furloughs to "the maximum extent allowed..."

"This is very troubling and it has the potential to turn already budget-strapped national parks into ghost towns," said CNPSR chair Maureen Finnerty in a press release. "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."

Park visitors won't be the only ones to suffer, noted Finnerty. "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."

Projected budget cuts ranged from $1,000 to the $1.75 for Yellowstone. Other notable cuts included; $1 million from Grand Canyon National Park, $1.25 million from Gateway National Recreation Area, $1.6 million from the National Mall and Memorial Parks and $1.4 million from Yosemite National Park.

Sequestration, currently set to take effect on March 1, was triggered by the failure of President Obama's congressional Super Committee to agree on how to cut government spending by $1.2 trillion. Unless Congress modifies it to the satisfaction of the White House, sequestration will result in cuts totaling over $1.2 trillion from new defense and non-defense spending over the next 10 years.

Many government programs will be exempt from sequestration cuts, most notably; Social Security benefits, tier I railroad retirement benefits, Veterans benefits, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

And as if sequestration isn't enough for Congress to deal with, all federal funding for the current fiscal year is set to expire on March 27, forcing a government shutdown. Yes, Congress spends a lot of time dealing with the fact that it hasn't enacted an actual annual federal budget since 1997.

Also See: A Decade of Wasteful Spending


February 8, 2013 at 7:26 pm
(1) Thomas Smith says:

It is somehow lost on the Author that Park Entry is not Free. That is right Wisitors to Parks Buy a Ticket, even if they are using the Park Daily as a shortcut to get to and from work. Camping areas add an additional Fee for usage. Anything bought in the Park demands a Premium Price. There are several activities uncharged for that could charge Fees, I expect in the future they will.

February 9, 2013 at 7:55 am
(2) usgovinfo says:

@Thomas Smith: The author is aware that the parks charge entry and user fees. In fact, anybody who cares about future funding of our national parks, forests and monuments need to read this report from 2005:

Funding the National Parks System

Robert Longley

February 10, 2013 at 12:33 am
(3) Wayne Mathis says:

First, I support and advocate sequestration since I believe out burgeoning 16+ Trillion Dollar National debt is unsustainable and will lead to the bankruptcy and default of the Government, and will not be addressed by our INCOMPETENT legislature and administration.

Second, As a resident of a village located within the confines of CAPE HATTERAS NATIONAL SEASHORE, who has worked diligently for about 5 years of a failed and suborned “Negotiated Rulemaking Process”, only to see practical public access to MY Park revoked and curtailed, I have concluded that the ENTIRE National Park Service should be ABOLISHED and ALL National Park Real Estate restored to the respective STATES for administration as Public Park Lands.

Here on the North Carolina Outer Banks the USNPS has become a hostile occupying force whose presence is unwelcome.

March 19, 2013 at 11:43 am
(4) Cecjr3 says:

I have traveled around the world and any national treasure visited demands a high admission fee. Anyone that cannot produce evidence of a USA residence should pay a premium. Any body that lives in the USA already funds the parks with our taxes and modest admission fee. I was shocked last year after visiting the Grand Canyon and a three day pass was only $25 for the car full.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.