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National Parks Struggle Due to Sequestration

Leon Kaye | Friday May 10th, 2013 | 2 Comments
sequestration, national parks, Yosemite, sequestration cuts, Sally Jewell, Congress, National Park Service, NPS, Joshua Tree National Monument, Leon Kaye, democrats, republicans, Congress, Obama Administration

Joshua Tree National Monument (Leon Kaye)

Will your summer vacation, or job, be affected by sequestration? Memorial Day Weekend, the official start of summer, is fast approaching, and with it are millions of trips across the country to visit one of America’s most stunning assets, our national park system. I am lucky enough to have three of them within 90 minutes of where I live. Whether they are those stunning natural wonders of Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks, or urban treasures such as the National Mall in DC or Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia, the National Park Service (NPS) does an admirable job running hundreds of parks on a shoestring.

But the sequestration cuts are hurting our national parks. Despite the fact defense and entitlements eat up almost two-thirds of the federal budget, the bizarre dance between the Obama Administration and Congressional Republicans have led to budget cuts at the NPS. While a five percent cut may not sound like much–after all no one gets rich working as a park ranger–the cuts have caused chaos within an agency already operating on a shoestring.

As Think Progress writer Jessica Goad pointed out on Wednesday, the small budget allotted to the NPS annually pays big dividends. Congress clearly does not get it, however; during a Tuesday dog and pony show on Capitol Hill titled, “Vacation Nation: How Tourism Benefits our Economy,” plenty of cliche’s were tossed out about collaboration and economic development . . . but no one mentioned the sequestration cuts and their effects on tourism and how they are cutting at the bone, from air travel to road maintenance to, of course, our national parks.

And our national parks are economic engines for many local communities and of course, small businesses, whether they are the diners in 29 Palms near Joshua Tree National Monument or shops renting out winter equipment along the roads leading to Rocky Mountain National Park. Supporting over 250,000 jobs and generating over $30 billion in revenue, $1 of government spending on national parks equals $10 economic activity within the private sector.

The cuts will not affect entrance fees. Instead, fewer staff will be hired, hours of operation will be reduced in parks such as Yosemite and in the urban parks trash collection will occur less regularly. As Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell explained during a recent web chat:

“There is no question that sequestration will impact a visitor’s experience, whether it’s a closed camp ground, the inability to get an expert to help answer their questions, the maintenance that needs to be done.”

And that in turn will have a domino effect on countless small businesses, many of them family run, and many committed to a sustainable and environmentally responsible approach to business and their communities.

Both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for this mess. Even if we eliminated the $600 billion outlays for discretionary spending, we would rack up deficits. Nevertheless the fact our leaders (and people who voted for them) are avoiding the hard decisions will lead one of our most important resources to crumble if the sequestration fiasco is not dealt with soon.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable BrandsInhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).

[Image credits: Leon Kaye]


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  • http://www.facebook.com/rick.desrochers Rick Desrochers

    Sequester of Sleeping Bear Dunes
    National Park

    And National Parks Across the Country

    As I sit near the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, I am
    sad, disgusted and angry. This area of
    Northern Michigan was voted on “Good Morning America” as the Most Beautiful
    Place in America voted by the people in 2011. Now that the Sequester has taken
    place, I fear that we will lose all the way around. I am sad because so many
    people have worked so hard to make this area in Northern Michigan even better
    since we have gotten the award. The
    pride around here is contagious, everyone is trying their hardest and it is in
    jeopardy. I am disgusted because congress is acting like a bunch of kids not
    getting their way. Instead of sitting down and working on an agreement they
    instead push it to the side hoping that people will just forget about it. I think they all need to go back to school especially
    economics class and learn. Let me ask a
    questions for all our elected officials?.. Do you know how many people and
    business’s you are hurting by sequestration? Do you know how much tax base you
    will lose because of congress not dealing with the problem? Do you really care
    about the American people; you know the ones that voted you in?

    We have this special place
    in Northern Michigan called the “Sleeping Bear Dunes” that so many of us have
    worked so hard to make this place”The Most Beautiful Place in America” and you seem to not give a damn.

    I found a
    little write up about the National Parks and here it is

    THE NATIONAL PARKS:
    AMERICA’S BEST IDEA is
    nonetheless a story of people: people from every conceivable background – rich
    and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers;
    idealists, artists and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote
    themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing
    so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy.

    Why wouldn’t I be angry after “The National Parks –
    America’s Best Idea be hurt because Congress can’t make decisions, The National
    Parks are supposed to be for the people, and now as I sit watching the National
    Park Employees lock the gates to the Scenic Drive til Memorial Day and then
    lock the gates up right after Labor Day and put locks on the trash cans; I
    wonder if The National Parks were America’s Best Idea since Congress really
    doesn’t seem to care other than about themselves. Remember “Actions Speak
    Louder Than Words” !

    Rick Desrochers

    Empire, Michigan

  • Nick

    Take the foreign aid money from those country’s that hate us and we will have plenty to fix the parks and anything else we need to do