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Federal spending cuts would hit California National Parks hard!

If the federal government does not find a deficit-reduction plan, a $1.2 trillion across-the-board cut in federal spending would kick in with a 5% hit to the budgets of the 398 national parks, according to a National Park Service document leaked this week. Such parks as Yosemite National Park, The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Point Reyes National Seashore would be affected in Northern California alone. SFGate,com describes it this way:

The cuts would be necessary in the event of what is known as the “sequester,” which is a legal writ forcing cuts in federal programs in the event President Obama cannot reach an agreement with Congress on a budget plan by Friday. <emphasis mine>

Reductions in the number of rangers, campground staff and interpretive programs would mean that the shallow roots of Yosemite’s towering giant sequoias could be trampled by visitors, roads would remain closed longer because of snow, toilets would be left to overflow and more garbage would be available to rampaging bears. And, while they are rampaging, bear safety programs would be cut, park officials said.

Jeff Olsen, the National Park Service spokesman, said that the cuts outlined in the leaked memo are not final.

He said 280 million people visit national parks each year and their spending alone supports 247,000 jobs and produces $31 billion in economic activity, mostly in communities around the parks. The memo declared, in anticipation of the cuts, that a hiring freeze is in place and the furloughing of permanent staff is possible.

Olson said the public should be prepared for closures of campgrounds, hiking trails, visitor centers and other service reductions at “national parks, historic sites, monuments and memorials, parkways, trails, preserves and reserves, seashores and lakeshores, recreation areas and national battlefields.”

John Garder, who is the budget and appropriations legislative representative for the National Parks Conservation Association (which obtained an internal park memorandum outlining some of the impacts and provided it to the media), said:

“One of the biggest impacts would be to rangers during the busy season,” he said. “These are the men and women who are essential to what makes the park experience really special … who tell people the uniquely American story that exists in places like Point Reyes.”

The largest urban national park in the country, the 75,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), is second in the nation for visitation, with 17 million visitors a year.

If the cuts go through, the GGNRA, which includes famous spots such as Alcatraz Island, Muir Woods and the Presidio of San Francisco, would have to cut $873,000 from its annual budget. The Point Reyes National Seashore, which includes historic Drakes Estero, where Sir Francis Drake landed in 1579, would have to dump $374,000 worth of programs and services.

As much as $8 million would be lopped out of California’s national park budgets – and that doesn’t include cuts to the regional office and services like the U.S. Park Police, which would also impact the state, Garder said.

Yosemite, with its 761,000 acres, would likely suffer dramatically from potential budget cuts.

Nearly 4 million people visit Yosemite every year and spend roughly $350 million, Garder said. Their spending supports 4,602 jobs in the area, including most of the jobs in Mariposa County, he said.

The cuts would probably force delays in the opening of snow-covered Tioga and Glacier roads for as long as four weeks after the winter season. Park administrators are worried that less frequent trash pickup would result in more bears lingering around campgrounds, a problem they have fought for years.

I sincerely hope that both the free-spending, Constitutional Rights-trampling Democrats and the obstructionist Republicans in Congress are able to compromise to create a long-term deficit-reduction plan and avoid the automatic cuts.

There is too much at stake.

-Bill at

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