Bulletin: Cuts “devastating” to Jackson
Angus M. Thuermer Jr.
February 28, 2013
Gateway communities such as Jackson will suffer as families alter summer vacation plans because of a budget impasse, National Park Service Director John Jarvis warned in a memo to agency employees.
Jarvis lamented the state of the political struggle as he reviewed the “grim reality” of the looming crisis in a Feb. 26 letter obtained by the Jackson Hole News&Guide. The Park Service will lose 5 percent — $134 million — of the money it expected to get if Congress and the White House can’t come to an agreement over “sequestration” by Friday.
An impasse “will have long-term and wide-ranging effects,” Jarvis wrote. “Reduced services and access will make families planning summer vacations think twice about coming to a national park.
“A drop in visitation could have devastating effects on the economies of gateway communities who depend on visitor spending and shut down park lodging, food, and other services provided by concessioners who support 25,000 jobs,” the memo states.
The warning came on the heels of a report issued by the Park Service that said visitors to its parks and monuments in 2011 pumped $30 billion into the national economy and supported 252,000 jobs.
Sequestration will result in a loss of seasonal employees, Jarvis warned.
“Seasonal employees will be furloughed, have delayed starts, shortened employment periods, or will not be hired at all,” Jarvis wrote. “We lose our utility infielders.
“Our seasonal workforce is the ‘bench’ we turn to when fires break out, search and rescue operations are underway, and every other collateral duty in the world needs doing,” the memo said. “Many of these folks return year after year; they are the repositories of amazing institutional knowledge for the park … and our visitors.”
The mandatory budget cuts will hit just as parks are hiring seasonal employees for the summer, Jarvis said.
“In some parks, like Yellowstone, the impact has already started; those who would normally be getting ready to plow roads for the spring season are on hold and the opening of the park could be delayed up to a month,” the memo said.
Permanent employees could also be affected.
“Across the Department of the Interior, it is expected that thousands of permanent employees will be furloughed for up to 22 work days,” he wrote. “In the unfortunate event it comes to furloughs, all affected employees will be provided at least 30 days notice or in accordance with the designated representative collective bargaining agreement, as appropriate.”
The budget crisis will extend to affect other programs parks have come to rely on, such as cooperative ventures involving students. The implications may be felt into the future, he said.
“Students are a vital part of our workforce today and integral to the national park workforce of tomorrow,” Jarvis wrote. “Sequestration will mean that we will be unable to meet our youth hiring goals.
“We also expect significant reductions to cooperative agreements with partners that fund youth work crews and are the foundation for our vision of a 21st Century Conservation Corps,” Jarvis wrote. “Our inability to hire students and enter into cooperative agreements will have lasting impacts as these young people are forced to find work elsewhere and ultimately may make different career choices.”
The cuts will come on top of austerity measures already imposed since Oct. 1, including not filling permanent positions, Jarvis said. The Park Service parent Department of the Interior imposed some of those.
“Secretary (of the Interior Ken) Salazar has implemented a Department-wide hiring freeze as well as given direction to reduce overtime, travel, training, contracts, cooperative agreements, and grants and eliminate conference attendance,” Jarvis wrote. “I want to emphasize to you that keeping positions vacant is not a sustainable strategy; it cripples our ability to meet mission responsibilities — from providing education programs to kids, to coordinating wildlife research, to managing museum collections — and it increases the burden on remaining staff that take on additional critical work that cannot go undone.”