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Mar 11, 2013

How Sequester Cuts Threaten Our National Parks

Mt. Rainer National Park
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By now, I'm sure you know just how serious the situation is for our national parks due to the sequester cuts which went into effect on March 1.

It's alarming that this very avoidable threat is about to become a reality. From Yellowstone to Cape Cod, the Grand Canyon and Great Smoky Mountains, our national heritage and local economies are at risk.

Information in a recently leaked Park Service planning document about potential impacts to park budgets suggests that the sequester will cause drastic cuts to jobs, educational programs, visitor centers, and visitor access points, including:

  • Jobs: Blue Ridge Parkway would cut 21 seasonal interpretive ranger programs, which would result in the closure of 50 percent of its visitor center contact stations at our country's most-visited national park site. Eliminating these seven stations will put an 80-mile distance between each open facility.
  • Education: Gettysburg National Military Park would eliminate 20 percent of its student education programs during the spring, which will impact 2,400 students.
  • Impact to Gateway Communities: Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road would delay its reopening by two weeks. Previous closures of this road have resulted in $1 million in lost revenue daily to surrounding communities and concessions.
  • Permanent Visitor Center Closure: Mount Rainier National Park would permanently close its Ohanapecosh Visitor Center, affecting 60,000 to 85,000 visitors.
  • Tourism: Independence National Historical Park would close eight of 16 interpretive sites in the spring and fall, such as the Declaration House, the New Hall Military Museum, and the Todd House, impacting more than 84,000 visitors.

Every dollar invested in the National Park Service generates about ten dollars in economic activity—yet in today's dollars, the Park Service budget has already declined by 15 percent over the last decade. The Park Service's own peer-reviewed economic report released this past Monday revealed that the nearly 279 million national park visitors in 2011 generated a whopping $30.1 billion in economic activity and supported 252,000 jobs nationwide. Many in the business community are deeply concerned about the wide-ranging effects these sequester cuts could have to the economy: Nearly 300 businesses have signed on to a letter calling on President Obama and Congress to keep parks open.

The National Parks Conservation Association will continue to work with members of Congress—as it has for months—to avert the worst consequences these damaging cuts could have on our national parks and the people that love and depend on them. Your voice continues to be critical in sharing the importance of these iconic places with our elected officials. Learn more on NPCA's website, join the conversation on Twitter at #KeepParksOpen, and please take a moment to tell President Obama and Congress to keep parks open.

This post originally appeared in the Park Advocate, the National Parks Conservation Association blog, at www.parkadvocate.org.

Tom Kiernan is President of the National Parks Conservation Association. Since 1919, the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its 750,000 members, supporters, and partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come.

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