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Natl. Parks Grouse over 5% Sequestration Cuts

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Delicate Arch at sunset in Arches National Park, Utah.

Utah’s national parks, monuments and recreation areas are bracing for steep automatic spending cuts that could go into effect March 1, KUTV-TV, Salt Lake City, Utah, reported.

Unless lawmakers strike a deal, $1 trillion in sequestration cuts would take place over the next decade and would affect all federal agencies, including defense spending.

In a memo from National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, managers of national areas are being asked to develop a sequestration plan and immediately implement a hiring freeze for permanent positions.

“For now, you should continue your seasonal hiring plans, but delay making offers,” the memo reads. “Hopefully, the budget issue will be resolved in time to allow you to complete your seasonal hiring.”

The U.S. park system would be out $160 million if the severe budget cuts go into effect. Jarvis warns that the 5.1% budget reduction would have a negative impact on visitors.

“We expect that a cut of this magnitude, intensified by the lateness of the implementation, will result in reductions to visitor services, hours of operation, shortening of seasons and possibly the closing of areas during periods when there is insufficient staff to ensure the protection of visitors,” the memo says.

Utah has five national parks, another five national monuments and one national recreation area.

If the budget cuts go into effect, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area would lose $543,000 from its 2013 budget, Zion National Park would lose $383,000 and Bryce Canyon National Park would have to slash its budget by $162,000.

In surrounding states, parks that would face even larger budget cuts include $1.06 million from Grand Canyon and $1.75 million at Yellowstone.

“It would hurt tourism,” said Joyce Kelly of the St. George Convention and Tourism Bureau. “It would be a huge loss if there were any type of cuts to Zion National Park.”

Kelly is in charge of international marketing for the St. George Area, which includes Zion National Park. She says the number of visitors to Zion National Park has increased over the past two years with nearly 3 million people visiting annually.

“People worldwide know about Zion National Park,” said Kelly. “It’s the sixth most visited nation park in the United States.”

The park is part of what’s known as the “The Grand Circle” tour of nation parks and monuments in the Southwestern U.S. that attracts national and international tourists.

“They’ll visit the grand canyon, Utah’s five national parks, monument valley,” Kelly said. “Germany and France are huge markets for us, as are the UK, Australia, China.”

 

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