Congress has passed, and President Obama signed, a bill to keep the government open and running through September 2013. However, the bill keeps the devastating cuts to parks, wildlife refuges, and other wild lands that are part of the “sequestration.”
These cuts are already being felt across the country. Towns outside of Yellowstone National Park have had to resort to essentially passing a hat in order to plow a road to the park normally maintained by the National Park Service. Other cuts to wild places include:
- Closed visitor’s centers and campgrounds on the Blue Ridge Parkway
- In Badlands National Park in South Dakota, park managers have had to cut more than 20% of the seasonal staff
- Point Reyes National Seashore in California will see visitor center and lighthouse closures, starting May 1
- Elimination of weekend hours and fishing access on many National Wildlife Refuges across the nation
In California, the cuts could have a more severe impact on lands and communities – the Forest Service is turning to local non-profit groups and others to help restore areas scorched by the 2009 Station Fire north of Los Angeles.
Watch Director Jarvis explain how the National Park Service is dealing with sequestration:
Unfortunately, these budget cuts will compound existing problems from funding shortfalls at America’s parks and wildlife refuges. The National Wildlife Refuge System currently has a maintenance backlog of more than $3 billion – a figure that won’t get any smaller with sequestration.
Also, these cuts are now locked in for the rest of the fiscal year (which ends at the end of September). But The Wilderness Society and others are working to restore these cuts, and keep America’s parks, wildlife refuges, and campgrounds open and available.
Among the suggested ways to solve the budget crisis is cut out the unnecessary tax breaks that fossil fuels like coal and oil are getting. These giveaways run into the billions of dollars, and a single year of them could pay for the maintenance backlog at National Wildlife Refuges and still have nearly a billion dollars left.
America’s wild places will face tight budgets, fewer services, and less access for at least the next several months. Hopefully these cuts do not become a long-term reality.
Watch the video below to learn more about how sequestration is affecting National Parks:
- National Park Service memo underlines sequestration "cuts are real"
- National parks continue to be important economic engines for local communities
- National parks won't be the only victims of budget cuts - other programs to be hit hard
- Your national park access may decrease with budget cuts: list of parks to be affected
- Before they're gone: A family's year-long quest to explore America's most endangered National Parks
- Americans Agree: Our National Parks Need Our Support