Top 10 Ways That Budget Cuts Will Impact Our National Parks

Park Closed Sequestration went into effect on March 1, severely cutting the budgets of many federally-funded categories like Social Security, Medicaid, and the National Park Service.

Without venturing into politics (like this post, and this one…), basically Sequestration is causing Government agencies to cut back on their spending.

What does that mean? Well, everything from the CIA to our National Parks are going to have to reduce their spending.

Our National Parks are being hit especially hard with the sequestration, losing $153.4 million. According to the NPS website, the organization is responsible for the care of 401 areas nationwide, visited by almost 279 million people in 2011 alone.

There’s no doubt that chunk of change is going to be missed. Here are the top 10 ways our National Parks are going to be hurt by such a huge financial loss.

How Sequestration Will Impact Our National Parks

  1. Reduction in Staff Numbers – The NPS employs 22,000 workers throughout the year in permanent, temporary, and seasonal positions. Another 221,000 volunteers help care for the areas. According to CNN, the NPS will be forced to hire 1,000 less seasonal workers because of budget cuts. The volunteer pool will also shrink due to reduction of amenities.
  2. Diverse Programs Cut – A reduction in staff means a reduction in available programs for visitors. Information centers, interpretive programs, and even search-and-rescue divisions will noticeably decrease.
  3. Fewer Facilities Available – From Huffington Post: “Olympic National Park in Washington ‘will not open flush-toilet areas and will not service restrooms and pick up trash as frequently.'” And this goes for parks around the country, too. GROSS.
  4. Seasons Become Shorter – With a reduced staff, some parks will have to delay their openings until they can afford a crew to clear roads. Acadia National Park had to wait an extra month before opening for this very reason.
  5. Less Days Open During the Week – In order to save money on staff costs, parks will have to remain closed on certain days of the week. For the James A. Garfield National Historic Site, this now means Sundays and Mondays.
  6. Maintenance Will be Limited – Whether it’s toilets that need plunging, roads that need plowing or signs that need repairing, budget cuts means delayed or indefinitely postponed upkeep in national parks.
  7. Fewer Campgrounds Opening – One of the ways the NPS is meeting the giant budget cuts is by closing camping areas. At Great Smoky Mountains National Park alone, five campgrounds are now closed.
  8. Educational Programming Diminished Education for Young Visitors – With less programming available at our national parks, children visitors will have fewer opportunities to learn about our natural world. Educational programming is one of the greatest benefits of our park system, teaching our children to respect the environment.
  9. Lack of Defense Against Invasive Species – A very real and immediate threat to national parks is the inability to protect them from hostile plants and animals due to a majorly reduced staff.
  10. AND THE KICKER – U.S. Economic Loss – According to the National Geographic News, “national parks return more than $10 for every dollar invested by the taxpayer.” They returned approximately $30 billion in 2011. A drastic reduction in visitors will be a huge hit to the economy’s wallet.

How Does This Make Sense?

People, this is ludicrous.

Forget the fact that our toilets won’t get cleaned (which sucks).

Forget the fact that our children won’t be able to play in our Parks and families can’t camp as frequently (which is awful).

Instead, let’s just focus on the math.

I’m no economist. But I understand math. And SPENDING ONE TAX PAYER DOLLAR to get a return of 10 DOLLARS is a GREAT RETURN ON INVESTMENT.

That’s a 1,000% ROI.
Glacier National Park
Cutting the budget of the National Park Service by $153.4 million might be a boon for the government’s pocketbook, but it will badly hurt our parks. Whatever the NPS takes from the government, it gives back 10-fold, but apparently the need for immediate cash has taken away the feds’ long-distance vision.

Will the sequestration finally make the NPS’s fantastic contributions clear to the big wigs in charge, or will it be a fatal blow to our environmental legacy? I hope for the former, but honestly fear the latter.


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