The Norman Transcript

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February 23, 2013

Saving money, hurting parks

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The towering giant sequoias at Yosemite National Park would go unprotected from visitors who might trample their shallow roots. At Cape Cod National Seashore, large sections of the Great Beach would close to keep eggs from being destroyed if natural resource managers are cut.

Gettysburg would decrease by one-fifth the number of school children who learn about the historic Pennsylvania battle that was a turning point in the Civil War.

As America’s financial clock ticks toward forced spending cuts to countless government agencies, The Associated Press has obtained a National Park Service memo that compiles a list of potential effects at the nation’s most beautiful and historic places just as spring vacation season beings.

“We’re planning for this to happen and hoping that it doesn’t,” said Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson, who confirmed that the list is authentic and represents cuts the department is considering.

Park Service Director John Jarvis last month asked superintendents to show by Feb. 11 how they would absorb the 5 percent funding cuts. The memo includes some of those decisions.

While not all 398 parks had submitted plans by the time the memo was written, a pattern of deep slashes that could harm resources and provide fewer protections for visitors has emerged.

In Yosemite National Park in California, for example, park administrators fear that less frequent trash pickup would potentially attract bears into campgrounds.

The cuts will be challenging considering they would be implemented over the next seven months — peak season for national parks. That’s especially true in Yellowstone, where the summertime crush of millions of visitors in cars and RVs dwarfs those who venture into the park on snowmobiles during the winter.

More than 3 million people typically visit Yellowstone between May and September, 10 times as many as the park gets the rest of the year.

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