Emerging evidence shows looming cuts threaten National Parks

By National Parks Conservation Association | Feb 28, 2013







Washington, D.C. – As Congress and the White House struggle to find a compromise to avoid across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester, nearly 300 businesses that would be directly impacted by national park closures and reduced visitor services today warned the looming cuts will have devastating impacts on their businesses and local economies nationwide.

“The basic truth is that gateway community businesses depend on our national parks being open and properly funded. Our economy depends on their economy,” said Luke D. Hyde, owner of the Calhoun Country Inn near Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Bryson City.

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been working with businesses across the country to make sure Congress and the President hear their concerns and echoed their remarks.

“These indiscriminate across-the-board cuts to our 398 national parks will harm tourism-dependent businesses and communities if our elected leaders allow them to last. Millions of Americans who visit parks rely on these businesses for lodging, tour guides and meals. If national parks are closed or inaccessible due to reduced hours, it hurts businesses and visitors,” said NPCA President Tom Kiernan.

The National Park Service (NPS) earlier this week released annual economic data showing the positive impact national parks have in states. Nationwide, national parks contribute more than $30 billion in economic activity and support more than a quarter million jobs. Park advocates say an upcoming $110 million cut to the Park Service budget will not only be devastating to the parks themselves, but to the many businesses and communities that rely on them to drive sales, and to families that rely on our national parks as affordable and inspiring destinations.

In a letter addressed to President Obama and Congress, businesses rallied to state the harsh reality that reducing park budgets kills jobs.

Kirk Hoessle, local business owner of Alaska Wildland Adventures said, “Congress needs to understand that my business suffers when Denali National Park suffers from cuts. Not only do we need to keep park roads and visitor centers open, but we need to make sure visitors have a great experience.”

William Duckwall, manager of Uncle Ducky Outdoors, an outdoor outfitting company that has been operating in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula since 1988 said, “More cuts to national parks mean less rangers and services, and that isn’t good for my business or any of my neighbors’ businesses.”

According to a recently leaked Park Service memo about potential impacts to park budgets, information suggests 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. By eliminating these seven stations, an 80 mile distance will be put in 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. In previous instances, closure of the road has resulted to $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 60,000-85,000 visitors.
  • Tourism: Grand Canyon National Park would delay opening of its East and West Rim Drives, and reduce hours of operation at the main visitor center – impacting a quarter of a million visitors.

“It’s alarming that this very avoidable threat could become a reality. From Yellowstone to Cape Cod, the Grand Canyon and Great Smoky Mountains, our national heritage and local economies are at risk,” said Kiernan.

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. According to a recent poll, nine out of 10 agree that funding for our national parks should be held stable or increased.

Unless Congress and the Administration reach a budget deal by this Friday, March 1, the across-the-board sequester will go into effect as early as the weekend. For more information about how national parks will be impacted, visit:  www.npca.org/billions.


Comments (1)
Posted by: Beth G. Johnson | Mar 02, 2013 04:05

The mandatory sequestation cuts require $85 Billion in decreased spending.  That is only about 3% of the Federal budget.  It is not quite twice what the Congress approved to spend solely on the Hurricane Sandy victims.  Therefore, I deeply doubt that 50% of the visitor centers on the Blue Ridge Parkway will have to close.   We must reduce our deficit and a small 3% cut should not cause panic.   

Beth G. Johnson

If you wish to comment, please login.