Park Service Budget Reduction News Stories

The truth is that every federal agency and those who depend on federal spending will be in a world of hurt. So I wonder why Park Service cuts are getting higher levels of coverage or attention?

In some stories, like this one in today’s Denver Post, the retirees seem to be leading the charge.

Rocky Mountain National Park, which also manages the Cache La Poudre River basin, could see $623,000 slashed from its remaining fiscal 2013 budget unless President Barack Obama and Congress reach an agreement to stave off across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect in less than three weeks.

Alarm has been sounded by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees concerning proposed 5 percent budget reductions for the National Park Service.

Colorado is home to 13 national parks, three national heritage areas and numerous other assets under Park Service management, according to the agency’s website.

“This will have ripple effects across the American economy,” said Joan Anzelmo, a spokeswoman for the retired employees coalition who now lives in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Her organization represents more than 900 former National Park Service personnel.

In this one, there are “leaked documents”..

Leaked documents from National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis give us a glimpse at the looming budget crisis that threatens to alter the operating landscape for America’s national parks. The documents paint a dire picture for the NPS and could have a major impact on the overall experience for visitors to the parks in 2013 and beyond.

In a letter from Jarvis dated January 25 of this year, regional, associate and assistant NPS directors are warned that unless Congress and President Obama can come to a fiscal agreement in the next few weeks, they will be asked to make 5% cuts to their budgets across the board. Having already missed a January 2 deadline for the sequestration of funds, the House and Senate have passed a law extending that deadline to March 1. Ahead of that date, the Park Service has already instituted a hiring freeze and has asked for recommendations from the management of each of its entities on where cuts should be made.

In addition to the immediate hiring freeze, the parks have been asked to continue planning for their seasonal hiring, but to not extend any offers until further notice. As the busy summer travel season nears, many of the parks hire temporary employees to help deal with the influx of visitors. For now, filling those positions has been put on the back burner. Furthermore, furloughed employees are to remain so for as long as possible, while overtime has been cut altogether. All non-essential travel has also been canceled and the purchasing of supplies has been cut as the organization strives to save cash.

A second leaked document shows the actual budgets of each of the parks and how much they are being asked to cut in order to make the 5% goal. Some of the hardest hit national parks include Yellowstone, which is being asked to cut $1.75 million, and Yosemite, which will lose $1.4 million in operating expenses. Those two locations aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch, however, as the National Mall will also shed $1.6 million from its budget and the Grand Canyon will cut an additional $1 million.
Unless the budget sequestration is averted before March 1, these cuts could have a dramatic impact on the national park experience for travelers. Understaffed and under-budgeted parks could lead to reduced hours of operation, shorter overall seasons and even the potential closure of certain areas. Visitor services would also likely be hit hard with fewer rangers on duty and less staff in visitor centers and information kiosks.

I do think that the budget process of identifying by unit makes the cuts more concrete to Congressfolks, who are the people who have to act.

Do you think it’s a useful exercise for retirees to raise this issue?

12 thoughts on “Park Service Budget Reduction News Stories”

  1. Why are National Park Service cuts getting more attention? Simple: the NPS is a much more public-facing agency that devotes far more institutional attention to public recreation issues. They “own” a much, much stronger brand when it comes to recreation. At the FS site where I worked as a ranger/interpreter, I can’t tell you how many visitors thought it was a national park.

    The Forest Service’s image is comparatively muddled. Just compare the two agency Web sites and it’s obvious how much more emphasis the NPS has placed on connecting with people interested in public lands recreation. And recreation *is* how the vast majority of Americans directly interact with their public lands. So unless you pay attention to the road signs and the bureaucratic politics of whose line is on what map, if you think public lands recreation, you think NPS.

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  2. gosh – I wonder who leaked that information?! And why is NPS getting coverage and the other land-management agencies not? Because NPS knows how to leak. And thus fight through public proxies to pressure the House, park district by park district. FS, BLM, and FWS could do the same thing….

    char miller, director w.m. keck professor of environmental analysis environmental analysis program pomona college 185 e. sixth street claremont ca 91711 909-607-8343 char.miller@pomona.edu ________________________________

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  3. The Forest Service “knows how” to leak, in fact is quite leaky…but not in a coordinated way with pressure groups like retirees to manifest some joint outcome.

    My first thought is “what’s the probability of success of separating yourself from the pack of federal agencies scrambling after the last few bucks?” So I have some hypotheses about FS retirees..
    1) it’s harder to feel loyal to a national BLI than to a local unit
    2) we’ve calculated the odds of success and it’s not worth the effort
    3) our retiree organization is not interested in this kind of work.
    4) current employees don’t leak the same kinds of documents to the same kinds of people for the same kinds of reasons as the Park Service.

    What do you all think?

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    • The solution to 1) is simple, though – have the WO do exactly what the NPS HQ did, and that is send out a forest-by-forest breakdown of budget reductions.

      The “units” may be larger, but if you tell a forest supervisor that they will have X thousands less in their timber management budget, then the local advocates can do the work of saying “that’s going to mean X fewer timber sales and X fewer jobs.”

      As Char Miller observed, the NPS astutely knows exactly how to work the system and how to make the cuts appear as painful as possible in the public eye. Make it clear that less funding will mean fewer public services. None of this “more with less” happy-go-lucky nonsense – talk about mothballing campgrounds because you can’t clean them and closing roads because you can’t patrol them.

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      • Some would like to see the Forest Service defunded, or have their timber sale program eliminated. The difference is that no one in Congress would risk political suicide by proposing specific cuts in the Park Service. Members of Congress will always seek to increase their “green creds” by voting for wilderness, as long as it’s in other states. That is a political no-brainer, for both Republicans and Democrats.

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        • There are many, many members of Congress who have voted to establish wilderness in their states. Dianne Feinstein, for all that I disagree with her about, established an extraordinary legacy of preservation with the California Desert Protection Act of 1994. Deservedly, the River of No Return Wilderness bears Sen. Frank Church’s name. You massively oversimplify things by suggesting that wilderness is has been somehow imposed on “other states” from outside.

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          • I would bet that eastern Democrats vote for 100% of all western Wilderness bills. In fact, the latest Wilderness bills have been shot down, mostly by western lawmakers. Add to that the Presidential proclamations of “new” Wilderness and you have today’s bigger picture. There are reasons why Congress has had trouble locking up more public lands. We have PLENTY of dead forests, counted in tens of millions of acres, and they don’t make good Wilderness or “wildlife corridors”. Yet, some still think we need more unmanaged forest, where whatever happens (still affected by man’s hand) is embraced as ecologically good.

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            • Travis, I agree that it is more complex.. but
              When I worked in a Florida congressional office, the Member voted all the time for wilderness in other states, until it came to coastal zoning in Florida, and then all the delegation Rs and Ds were together. Just sayin’

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      • Travis…

        That’s a good point, in fact, their tactics are so well known that the “Washington Monument Syndrome” as described in Wikipedia.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Monument_Syndrome

        “The name derives from the National Park Service’s alleged habit of saying that any cuts would lead to an immediate closure of the wildly popular Washington Monument.[2][3] The Washington Monument Syndrome emerged as a euphemism for cutting the most visible services after George Hartzog, the seventh National Parks Director, closed popular national parks like the Washington Monument and the Grand Canyon for two days a week in 1969. The intent of the closures may not have been to get people to complain to Congress, but the effect was that Congress received complaints, Hartzog was fired, and the funding was restored.[4] ”

        It seems to me that a difference is that the FS gives the bucks to the regions and then the folks in the region get together and decide how to take the hits in the most fair way that provides the most important services. Still, guessing and doing lengthy exercises about budgets happens and so numbers could be gathered back in the WO. Still the point of the exercise is always to mitigate, not to “Washington Monument”. Cultural differences?

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    • NPS retirees believe in their agency’s current mission and are willing to go to bat for it. The Forest Service’s retiree association believes the Forest Service needs to set the clock back 30 years, restore its old “multiple-use” mission and is less motivated to back an agency in transition, if not chaos.

      Although the NPS’s “Best Places to Work” score is only #166 out of 292, that’s light years ahead of the FS’s #254 score. If you didn’t think your agency was a good place to work while employed, why would you come to its defense in retirement?

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      • Andy is certainly entitled to his opinion. However making broad based statements such as his comment about the NAFSR wants to set the clock back 30 years. It may be that some share that belief. I have been a member of the retiree organization for the last 8-10 years. My experience is in business administration and organizational management. It is the all encompassing statements about who believe what. There may be individuals who believe as Andy states, I do not believe the “organization” does. In some cases there were much better resource actions being taken 30 years ago. At least there were people, with on the ground experience and stayed at their location long enough to see both good and bad decisions being played out. To me it is more constructive to ask questions about why an individual or organization expresses a position. Questions bring information..,. numerous questoins over time bring more information….the accumulation of information can represent knowledge…..knowledge permits the possibility of making wise decisions. It does not guarantee wise decisions. We all have bias and our thoughts often colored by both good and bad.

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  4. Andy… I’m interested in what you think and a few more specifics. Since I am a member of NAFSR, I’m interested in what positions it is taking that support your view…

    I don’t want to set the clock back; I do think that since until the “multiple use” mission is change by Congress that it is the law of the land, and Chief Thomas always told the FS to “obey the law and tell the truth.”

    Some of the chaotic policies are efforts by USDA, and not the FS; again if we really want to analyze the role of FS leadership we would control for departmental inclinations by putting the FS in Interior.

    Which makes me think that another hypothesis could be that retirees could be tired of the perennial federal budget games, and gamespersonship, inter and intra agency and more than willing to stop playing. Coupled with the low probability of success, the idea does not do much for me. But maybe some found those kinds of games life-enhancing, and we should locate those folks and put them out front.

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