Today is March 1, which happens to be a fairly important date here in the U.S. Because President Obama and Congress failed to come up with a new budget plan before midnight, the Sequestration process has now kicked in, making automatic cuts to the government’s budget across the board. These deep cuts are going to have an impact on a number of services and programs that we’ll likely be dealing with for weeks and months to come.
One of the most visible places where you’ll notice sequestration having an immediate and direct impact is in America’s national parks, which will now be forced to cut hours of operation, close visitor centers and cut jobs in an effort to meet the new budget demands.
I wrote about this for Gadling.com last week, but it is worth sharing here as well, particularly since many of us happen to love the national parks. Amongst the cuts that have already been made public are delayed openings for Yellowstone, Yosemite and parts of the Grand Canyon this spring. In the Grand Tetons, the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, and the Flagg Ranch Visitor Contact Station will all be closed for the summer. On Mt. Rainier the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center will also be shuttered, while in Denali the Eielson Visitor Center will see a delayed opening this spring. The National Park Service has even announced that five campsites inside the Great Smokey Mountains National Park will be closed for the year as well. Considering that is the most visited park in the entire system, it is sure to have an impact on visitors.
This is just the tip of the iceberg however and there are sure to be many similar reductions in service across nearly all the national parks. The dedicated staff at those locations will work hard to minimize the impact on travelers, but it many of the cuts will simply be too large to ignore. If you’re planning on visiting a national park in the near future, I’d recommend checking ahead to see what impact the sequestration process is going to have on that particular park. I’d hate to have someone arrive at their destination, only to find that the park isn’t open yet or some key services were not being offered.
It’s a shame that it has come down to this, but this is economic climate we live in right now. Lets hope it all gets sorted out soon.