National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis issued a memo Friday (March 8) detailing the scope of a 5% across-the-board budget cut and the damaging effect it will have on the already beleaguered agency.
The automatic budget cuts will force delayed openings at Glacier and Yellowstone national parks, which must slash $682,000 and $1.8 million from their respective budgets, while gateway communities and the local economy will suffer, the Missoula, Mont., Missoulian reported.
To help meet the reductions, 900 permanent park service positions will not be filled. In an organization with 15,000 permanent employees, 900 vacant jobs will have a “profound effect,” Jarvis said in the memo, which went out to all National Park Service employees.
“Every activity will be affected. Some impacts will be immediate, others will accumulate over time,” he wrote.
Jarvis explained that fewer law enforcement rangers and U.S. Park Police officers will mean lower levels of protection and longer response times. Fewer maintenance personnel will mean that parks may have to close facilities when breakdowns occur – and that the $12 billion maintenance backlog will continue to grow. Fewer management and administrative personnel can translate into lower levels of accountability and oversight, he wrote.
“Our investments to control invasions by exotic plants and animals will be wasted as they regain toeholds in parks,” he wrote. “Our community support programs will reduce grants and technical assistance to states. Uncertainty about access to everything from interpretive programs to facilities could send visitors elsewhere, with impacts to entrance fees, concession revenue, and the tourism economies in gateway communities.”
The agency will hire more than 1,000 fewer seasonal employees for the 2013 fiscal year, including firefighters and search and rescue crews.
“Seasonal employees are our utility infielders, the ‘bench’ we turn to when fires break out, search and rescue operations are under way, and every other collateral duty,” Jarvis wrote. “Many of these folks return year after year. They are the repositories of amazing institutional knowledge.”
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