The Budget threat to America's Parks and Refuges


Arches National Park

National Park Service

Now that the election is over, it’s time for Congress to get back to work. First on the docket - deciding whether to close America’s national parks and wildlife refuges.

Spending cuts that are part of the budget sequester, or just “sequestration” could have deep and lasting impacts on America’s wild places. The sequester is a trigger of automatic spending cuts that was passed by Congress in 2011. These cuts total $1.2 trillion from both defense and non-defense (approximately 8% to federal non-military programs) programs over a period of 10 years beginning Jan. 1st, 2013. That is unless Congress can pass a budget deal to reduce the deficit before then.

Otherwise, sequestration will mean devastating cuts to programs across the country that protect America’s natural resources and environment. Without adequate funding of these programs we could see road and trail closures, access cut off for hunters and anglers, and even entire parks shut down.  Drastic cuts like this could also have a ripple effect into other parts of the economy. The 6 million jobs in the outdoor recreation industry depend on access to America’s parks and trails. Cuts could also spell doom for endangered species that are barely surviving as it is.

As Congress moves forward on sequestration, there are a few things they should keep in mind. First, America’s wild places are magnets for tourist dollars that fuel local economies. Outdoor recreation brings more than $640 billion to the US economy every year. Second, there are more than $4 billion in unneeded tax breaks going to the oil and gas industry each and every year. Just one year of those handouts could eliminate the entire maintenance backlog on National Wildlife Refuges ($3 billion) with $1 billion to spare! Congress should look for savings there before making budget cuts to our wild places.

For more information regarding the threats of sequestration please see our factsheet: Sequestration Impacts On Our Public Lands