Republicans at a hearing in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday questioned the effects of sequestration on national parks. Committee members slammed National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis for overplaying the impacts on parks. As Greenwire reported:
Several Republican lawmakers—including [Rep. Darrell] Issa [(R-CA), chairman of the committee]—also accused Jarvis of exaggerating the effects of sequestration in the months before it went into effect.
Issa hit Jarvis for his statements about the “draconian effects of sequestration,” claiming that “‘a whistle-blower’ has told the committee that a few parks indicated sequestration wouldn’t affect services at all.” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) accused Jarvis of making “a political statement” by highlighting only the famous places that are being impacted.
Yet the on-the-ground facts show that the predictions are actually playing out. National parks across the country are facing $153.4 million in cuts due to sequestration. As Climate Progress has previously reported, this means national park superintendents are forced to make tough decisions about their employees’ livelihoods—for example, nearly 1,000 seasonal employees will not be hired this summer.
Here are some of America’s national parks that are already cutting jobs and closing areas because of sequestration:
- Maine’s Acadia National Park will open many of its popular sites including visitors’ centers a month later than normal. The news “disappointed” nearby businesses, which make money off of tourists visiting the park.
- Several campgrounds along the Blueridge Parkway—America’s most visited national park unit—will close for the season. Other sites that will close include concession areas, picnic sites, and a few visitors’ centers.
- The James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Ohio has closed on Sundays (one of its busiest days), as well as Mondays and federal holidays. The park unit will save money on utilities and because must pay higher salaries on Sundays. Over 300,000 people visit the site every year.
- The Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania will start its longer summer hours on May 1st, a month later than usual. It will also offer fewer interpretative programs.
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota has closed its famous Painted Canyon scenic overlook to save money on the costs of staff, utilities, and custodial services. Last year 300,000 vehicles stopped at the area to catch a glimpse of the badlands where Theodore Roosevelt once ranched.
In contrast to the harsh and unnecessary cuts forced by sequestration, President Obama’s budget requests an increase for the budget of the National Park Service, to ensure that visitors are well-taken care of at our national parks.
And yet, if changes are not made soon, additional impacts will be felt. As Jarvis said at yesterday’s hearing, sequestration will cause “every park activity [to] be affected and impacts will continue to accumulate over time.”