National parks closures, layoffs possible fiscal cliff casualties

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The impending fiscal cliff, with an 8.3 percent cut in park budgets, could result in the termination of thousands of park workers and force other national parks to shut down, says the Coalition of National Park Retirees.

But that’s not all. In addition, campgrounds, visitors centers, educational programs would end. Maintenance and repair for buildings, roads, trails would also be eliminated. Snow plowing would be reduced, and the ability to perform search-and-rescue operations would be hindered.

The group says seasonal employees would not be hired next summer, because of the $190 million in cuts to the National Park Service. The budget lists a nationwide total of $150 million for seasonal salaries – about 9,000 seasonal park rangers.

The mandated sequester amount is already more than the available funds. Therefore it is likely that many parks would close or drastically reduce services in order to take another $40 million from the operating budgets to meet the $190 million sequester total.

In virtually every state in the country and several U.S. territories, there is at least one national park or National Park Service administered program that supports counties, states and territories.

The National Park Service now protects and manages some 398 units and welcomes more than 260 million visitors annually. Nationwide, national parks support local economies in a significant way, generating $31 billion in private sector spending and 258,000 private sector jobs each year.