The 16-day shutdown of the federal government had a tremendous impact on our national parks, which were already suffering from chronic underfunding. For the first time in 17 years, Congress shuttered America’s most cherished places, turning away millions of visitors and putting 21,000 Park Service employees out of work.
The local communities that depend on the parks took the biggest blow. From hotels and restaurants to outfitters and concessionaires, the economic impact of national park closures and the loss of visitor spending reached over $414 million, according to a recent National park Service report on the shutdown.
To make matters worse, the short-term, temporary budget deal that allowed national parks to reopen only continued the damaging cuts of the sequester. The sequester was ended this fiscal year thanks to a budget deal, but funding levels remain considerably insufficient to meet parks’ needs, and the sequester is still scheduled to return after next fiscal year. At a time when public support for them has been front-page news, our national parks—and the people who enjoy and depend on them—continue to suffer from a failed budget process.
Now, Congress has an opportunity to restore funding for the National Park Service budget for next fiscal year, FY15, by supporting the president’s budget proposal to reinvest in parks for their upcoming Centennial.
- INFOGRAPHIC: Open & Shut?
- Costs of the Shutdown to National Park Visitors and Communities
- Lost Recreation Visits/Visitor Spending by State