from the National Parks and Conservation Association
Background: The release of President Obama’s 2014 budget April 10 proposes that the National Park Service budget would increase by $56.6 million over FY12, but the increase is partially offset by programmatic decreases to park base operations. The proposal includes important investments but also provides a reduction of nearly a hundred staff in park operations.
“The National Park Service is experiencing deep impacts from the sequester and other continued reductions. This year will be the most challenging in some time for national park superintendents who will have fewer rangers and smaller budgets to manage each park from Yellowstone to Acadia. Funding the operations of the National Park Service needs to be more of a priority than it has been to date. We’re pleased that the President recognizes the need to reverse the mindless sequester, but it will take more than that recognition to address the reality facing national parks.”
“The sequester has already cut more than $130 million from the National Park Service budget, forcing places like Yellowstone, Acadia, Independence Hall, and Cape Cod National Seashore to delay seasonal openings, close visitor centers, picnic areas, and campgrounds, and eliminate ranger positions that are critical to protecting endangered species and historic buildings, as well as greeting park visitors and school groups. Further cuts will only impair the national park experience.
“National parks draw international tourists and are economic engines that support more than $30 billion in spending and more than a quarter million jobs. Yet they suffer from an annual operating shortfall exceeding half a billion dollars and a maintenance backlog of many billions more. And in today’s dollars, the Park Service budget has now declined by more than 20 percent over the last decade.
“We need the President and Congress to make sure America’s national parks are open and well-staffed and nothing in this budget provides us with any confidence that will happen. Our national parks are not just great destinations to visit, they are our national treasures that should be treated with honor. They drive the economy for many rural and urban communities. The severe under-funding of our most prized places needs to be reversed. We hope to work with the President and Congress as they debate how to repair a failed federal budgeting process to better address the true causes of the nation’s deficits and better serve our national parks and the American people.”
Glacier National Park
According to NPS Glacier, “The park’s base budget of approximately $13.5 million was reduced by $682,000. The park must absorb that cut in the remaining months of this fiscal year that ends September 30.”
Due to Congress’ failure to adequately support the parks, budgets were already far short of basic infrastructure and operating requirements. Cutting funding further through a failure of the federal budgetary process adds insult to injury. Inasmuch as jobs and tourism income in areas with parks benefit greatly, any reduction of park hours, season dates, and attractions impacts more than the parks themselves.
Fortunately, a donation to NPS Glacier by the Glacier National Park Conservancy has kept budget cuts from delaying the spring plowing of the Going to the Sun Road. However, visitors will see impacts elsewhere:
- Delayed trail access and decreased trail maintenance,
- Reduction in native plant restoration,
- Reduced shoulder-season access to campgrounds and visitor centers,
- Decrease in entrance station hours,
- Less maintenance work on park facilities, roads and utility systems,
- Limited and delayed emergency response outside the core season,
- Decreased educational programming and ranger-led activities,
- Less back-country volunteer coordination,
- Reduction of revenue from impacted campgrounds, and
- Reduced partner financial aid assisting interpretive programs resulting from loss of revenue of partner bookstores in park.
What a pity.