Visit the national parks next summer, because who knows what shape they'll be in in 2013.
That was the message Monday evening from National Parks Conservation Association officials in reaction to the failure by Congress' supercommittee to craft a deficit reduction plan.
“If you want an enjoyable, inspiring and safe national park visit, make your plans for this coming summer. If these cuts occur, in the following years you could be hard-pressed to find a ranger to help you, or your favorite park may be closed when you want to visit," said Craig Obey, the group's vice president for government affairs.
Mr. Obey's statement was released shortly after the supercommittee's co-chairs announced they the committee was at a stalemate.
“As the congressional supercommittee announced its failure to reach a budget deal today, we are extremely concerned with the impacts that failure could have on our national parks," said Mr. Obey. "According to Congress’ budget agreement made in August ... failure of the 12-member congressional panel sets in motion a process of sequestration, which will begin in January 2013. As the law currently stands, this process will lead to mandatory cuts to discretionary spending across-the-board which means national parks could see 9 percent cuts that will also harm local businesses, jobs, and the protection of our national heritage."
While National Park Service officials have not said how a 9 percent cut would be absorbed by the agency, NPCA said such a reduction would harm parks, surrounding communities, and businesses that rely on tourism tied to the parks.
"A study commissioned by NPCA found that every federal dollar invested in national parks generates at least four dollars of economic value to the public," said Mr. Obey. "National parks support $13.3 billion of local private-sector economic activity and 267,000 private-sector jobs. Cuts to park operations, construction and land acquisition could mean direct job losses that will impair the places that American families rely on as affordable vacation destinations each year.
Earlier this month the NPCA released a report, Made In America: Investing in National Parks for Our Heritage and Our Economy, that pointed to the strains the National Park System already was under from underfunding by Congress. An additional 9 percent cut would be devastating, the group said.
"A 9 percent cut, if you're looking at it from the standpoint of a park superintendent, their greatest flexibility is hiring more or less seasonals. In the case of Acadia, at least, and probably in many other parks, a 9 percent cut would essentially wipe out seasonals," said Denis Galvin, a former deputy director of the Park Service, during a conference call with reporters to discuss the report. "Which means at the height of the visitor season you have nobody to staff visitor centers, give interpretive talks, provide law enforcement services, etc. It’s just very clear that anything like a 9 percent cut would be devastating to the parks and result in park closeures I think shortly after that.”