A January 2017 memorandum by President Trump aims to halt most federal hiring. But the National Park Service is already understaffed, and cuts to personnel would make a bad situation worse.
When visitors arrive at a national park, one of the first people they’re likely to meet is a park ranger. With their familiar green and gray uniforms and their flat hats, these federal employees are the public face of our country’s most iconic and inspirational places.
Park rangers do much more than greet and assist the hundreds of millions of people who visit our parks every year. These specialized professionals care for diverse and unique public lands and preserve the stories and artifacts from key moments in America’s history. National parks are home to wildlife that exist nowhere else, environmentally sensitive lands and waters, and some of the nation’s most distinctive buildings and prehistoric structures. Park rangers interpret centuries of natural and cultural history so that we can better understand the world around us. They help preserve what is precious and irreplaceable. This often includes people: National Park Service staff also conduct emergency search-and-rescue missions and other law enforcement duties that keep visitors safe.
President Trump’s federal hiring freeze is a blow to this important workforce. Without an exemption for National Park Service employees, the freeze could result in a serious threat to park resources as well as tourist economies around the country.
The National Park Service already has a high number of vacant positions, despite assisting record-setting numbers of visitors over the last several years. According to the latest available data, the National Park Service had 10 percent fewer staff in fiscal year 2015 than it did five years earlier. The agency currently has more than 1,700 vacancies in a permanent workforce of approximately 21,000, with many more staff members nearing retirement age.
Our parks need more staff, not less, to handle increased demand, address a growing $12 billion backlog of maintenance and repair needs, and protect the very things that make these places special.
A hiring freeze could affect more than just the parks themselves. Small businesses around the country depend on thriving parks, too. In 2015 alone, national parks supported $32 billion in economic activity and nearly 300,000 private-sector jobs.
Fortunately, Interior Secretary nominee Ryan Zinke has pledged to support our park rangers, saying during his confirmation hearing that one of his top three priorities as secretary would be “to ensure the professionals on the front line, our rangers and field managers, have the right tools, right resources and flexibility to make the right decisions that give a voice to the people they serve.”
NPCA both applauds and supports Congressman Zinke’s commitment to our rangers and opposes any hiring freeze for the National Park Service and related agencies that support our national parks. Maintaining healthy national parks requires a robust and skilled workforce. We urge President Trump and his administration to immediately exempt the National Park Service and other agencies that protect our national parks from this harmful hiring freeze.
Nearly 19,000 Spoke Up for National Park Staff
Park advocates sent letters asking the administration to exempt the Park Service and related agencies from the federal hiring freeze.
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