Sequester the New Normal for National Parks

May 21, 2013 by   - () Comments Off on Sequester the New Normal for National Parks

Old Faithful may be dependable, but the days of regular annual increases in federal support for national parks may be coming to an end.

Sequestration budget cuts might stick at Yellowstone Park, Superintendent Dan Wenk said Monday (May 20).

“What we started with this fiscal year might become the ‘new normal,’” Wenk said while speaking during National Parks Day at the Cody Club luncheon, the Cody (Wyo.) Enterprise reported.

He and Grand Teton Park superintendent Mary Gibson Scott said if President Obama’s proposed budget passes, their budgets will return to previous levels – but neither expects that to happen.

At least for this season, the effects of sequestration were significantly blunted by getting the east and south gates open on time May 3 – rather than two weeks later, as had been expected, Wenk said.

“I don’t know how to put it, other than to say thank you,” Wenk said, regarding local fundraising efforts that paid for Wyoming Department of Transportation crews to do the necessary plowing.

That helped Yellowstone National Park avoid cuts in services, he said.

Instead, the Park Service might increase fishing fees, and has already raised some camping fees, Wenk said.

On the positive side, the park has almost wrapped up another 20-year contract with Xanterra Parks & Resorts as the Yellowstone’s primary concessionaire.

That could result in Xanterra investing up to $140 million in Yellowstone, Wenk said.

It will involve such things as cabins being used to house employees opening up for park guests, as Xanterra builds new employee dormitories, he said.

In other business, Wenk noted the proposed YNP winter use plan is still open for public comment on the park’s website,

Comments are due by June 17.

“I’m cautiously optimistic we have a proposal which the access community and the environmental community can both accept,” he said.

Wenk also noted the “nine-mile slump” on the east gate road west of Sylvan Pass should be fully repaired this year.

Part of the road collapsed there during the exceptionally strong spring runoff in 2011.

Visitors should expect some delays, and automatic “traffic lights” at the repair site, Wenk said.



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