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Help Our National Parks Survive the Sequester

March 1st was the kickoff date for a series of federal budget cuts that are designed to reduce federal spending by 1.2 trillion dollars over the next ten years. These cuts are known as the sequester. It may seem at first glance that we finally have some fiscal responsibility in our government. However, these cuts are likely to have a major impact on jobs and important government programs, some of which are already being seen.

If you've been fortunate enough to keep your job over the last couple months, you might simply be wondering what the sequester is all about and how it is affecting you and your family. Here are some quick facts and figures that will help you visualize the impact of sequestration:

The government is required to cut $85 billion by the end of the fiscal year in October.

Many government agencies have been forced to offer reduced hours and services and lay off or furlough workers.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates a loss of 750,000 jobs due to sequestration.

Military spending, which accounts for $550 billion in the federal budget, will see 7.8 percent in budget cuts, or $43 billion.

Domestic programs such as health, education, drug enforcement, national parks and other nonmilitary programs will see a 5.2 percent cut, or about $26 billion, from the current $510 billion budget.

Sequestration in Our National Parks

While some cuts may go unnoticed by the American public, our national parks are already seeing the effects of the sequester. The National Parks Service is burdened with the task of cutting six percent from its annual budget by the end of the year. Many of the national parks have been forced to cancel tours, close campgrounds and delay hiring seasonal employees.

For example, Yellowstone National Park was forced to cut $1.75 million from its $35 million budget. Cuts in payroll and snowplowing were going to force the park to have a late opening this season. However, the chambers of commerce in Cody and Jackson Hole, Wyoming pitched in $170,000 so as not to have the late park opening affect their peak tourism seasons. Still, the park opened two weeks behind schedule, and those two weeks cost the park 50,000 visitors.

Blue Ridge Parkway, the most visited national park unit in America, has seen similar effects. They have hired thirty fewer seasonal employees, closed a number of facilities including visitors centers, picnic areas and more than 400 campsites.

We should all stop and think about those national parks that are important to us, as no park is immune to the sequester.

Park Service Director Jon Jarvis announced that overall the NPS will hire over 1,000 fewer seasonal employees this year. Because the same seasonal employees often return every year, they are considered "repositories of amazing institutional knowledge, which comes in handy when fires break out or search and rescue operations are under way. The parks this year will have 1,000 fewer of these important employees.

Without a full staff it's difficult to maintain the facilities, trails and other attractions in our national parks. Sequestration threatens to let these national treasures fall into disuse and disrepair. These are unique lands that the government has promised to take care of in order that the American people might enjoy them. The budget cuts required by the sequester are a recall of that promise.

National Parks are Connected to our National Treasures

Aside from beautiful national lands, The National Parks Service is also responsible for maintaining significant historical sites and monuments. These are not immune to the effects of sequestration either.

The NPS announced recently that evening hours would be cut this summer at Philadelphia's Independence Hall and Liberty Bell. Independence National Historic Park is losing $1.2 million of a $24 million budget. Based on attendance numbers from last year, the shortened hours mean that this year about 43,000 fewer people will see where our Founding Fathers debated the Constitution. Additionally, the park is being forced to delay maintenance and upkeep, close five other historic buildings at the park and leave nine positions unfilled.

Ellis Island Immigration Museum is unlikely to open at all this year. While Hurricane Sandy is to blame for the damage which has placed the museum out of service, the sequester is making it virtually impossible to make necessary repairs at this time. Not only is the Parks Service being sequestered, but the Hurricane Sandy Relief funds are also part of the $26 billion in cuts.

How You Can Help

While we accept that budget cuts are necessary, we fear that they will cause irreversible damage to our national parks. There are several ways you can help ensure that the parks and monuments we now enjoy are still around for future generations:

Visit the national parks and monuments this summer. You can purchase a National Parks Annual Pass for $80, which grants you access to all national parks. There are almost 400 to choose from.

Be supportive of the efforts of parks employees. Poorly maintained campgrounds and restrooms as well as longer lines to get into parks will likely be the effects of poorly staffed parks. Do your part to clean up after yourself and be patient with wait times.

Spread the word. Post the national parks badges on your own website or blog to raise awareness and show your support. The national parks need America’s support to survive the effects of sequestration.

To get more updates on how you can help, join the movement:


Share this badge on your website or blog to show your support for our National Parks

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