Sequestration hits National Park Service, RVers and campers.
Closed campgrounds, Sunday closures of National Park System units, and 900 permanent positions that will go unfilled are just some of the latest details of how the National Park Service is responding to the ongoing federal budget sequestration.
* At Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, officials said the 64-site Elk Mountain Campground would remain closed. That move eliminates the need for two summer employees to maintain the campground and interpretive rangers to present evening campfire programs, park officials said.
“The sequestration has forced us to make some tough decisions that will impact visitors to Wind Cave National Park,” said Superintendent Vidal Davila. “People will have fewer opportunities to tour Wind Cave, the park’s primary resource, as a result of less staff.”
The 5 percent budget cut also will lead to a reduction in invasive plant control at the park, maintenance of fences and building repairs, science and research activities, natural resource monitoring, and wildlife management programs.
* In Alabama, Park Service officials said the sequestration forces them to close the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, and the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail on Sundays until further notice.
* At Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota, the cuts could lead to delays in snow plowing this spring on the Rainy Lake Ice Road, the Kab-Ash Ice Road, and the entrance to the Rainy Lake Visitor Center as park officials look to reduce fuel consumption and overtime pay.
Park officials say that when snowfall occurs before or after regular park operating hours, snow removal will be delayed until personnel report for normal duty hours. If significant snowfall occurs during weekends the Rainy Lake Visitor Center may be closed.
* At Badlands National Park in South Dakota, the 5 percent budget cut equates to a 24 percent reduction in seasonal hires for positions that support interpretive talks and walks, school programs, custodial services, road, fence and building repair and maintenance, science and research activities, natural resource monitoring, and search and rescue operations.
“The seasonal workforce is the heart of the park,” said Superintendent Eric Brunnemann. “This sort of loss cuts deeply into our ability to serve the public, something we are dedicated to doing every day.”
* Across the entire park system, 900 permanent positions that currently are vacant will not be filled, Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said Friday in a memo to the entire agency.
“In an organization with 15,000 permanent employees, 900 vacant jobs have a profound effect. Every activity will be affected. Some impacts will be immediate, others will accumulate over time,” Director Jarvis said. “Fewer law enforcement rangers and USPP officers mean lower levels of protection and longer response times. Fewer maintenance personnel mean that parks may have to close facilities completely when breakdowns occur – and that the $12 billion maintenance backlog will continue to grow.”
The memo did not, however, mention how many vacant positions the Park Service has been carrying in recent months.
Director Jarvis said the agency, system-wide, would see seasonal hirings drop by more than 1,000 employees, would furlough some staff in the U.S. Park Police, and would ban all non-essential travel.
“‘Essential’ travel includes only the following: travel that is critical for health and safety, and travel to attend training required to retain current, mission critical certifications – such as contracting warrants. International travel is cancelled,” wrote the director.
Director Jarvis also noted that the most recent continuing resolution to fund the federal government expires March 27.
“We do not know how, or if, the debate on a new continuing resolution will impact the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013 or the Fiscal Year 2014 budget negotiations. For now, please assume that we will operate for the remainder of the year at the 95 percent spending level envisioned in your sequestration plans,” he wrote.