Report: Utah National Parks Can Absorb Cuts
A spokesmen for two of Utah's national parks says the pending cuts in service through sequestration, starting on Friday (March 1), may not be as bad as feared.
The Obama administration has used its bully pulpit this week to warn of the dire consequences of the cuts. But on-site park officials in Utah say they’re ready to take the brunt of the hit without apparent impacts — at least in the short-term.
"We’re in a somewhat positive situation if there is such a thing," Paul Henderson, assistant superintendent of the Arches and Canyonlands national parks, told the Salt Lake Tribune.
Henderson says that the parks have held open vacant staff spots that will help "cushion" the blow if the cuts go into place.
"Without a doubt there will be fewer ranger programs," Henderson added. "The rest rooms may not get cleaned as many times a day. We’re going to try to do everything a little bit less."
Zion National Park, too, has been cutting back already in anticipation of the sequester and doesn’t expect an immediate change to operating hours.
The outlook has been far more onerous elsewhere.
The heads of the Interior Department and the National Park Service are warning of dangerous impacts of automatic budget cuts set to go into effect Friday.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Americans could encounter closed campsites and hiking trails, a loss of programs and the potential for a fewer emergency responders and firefighters if the cuts aren’t halted.
"Should Congress fail to act, the public should be prepared for reduced hours and services, not only in national parks but across all of the facilities that are managed by the Department of Interior," Salazar told reporters this week.
"These impacts are real," added National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. "We’re not making them up. We have to figure out how to handle a five-percent cut."
Unless Congress acts, the so-called sequester kicks in on Friday and will force the government to slash $85 billion in the next six months.