If Congress does not act to avoid the "fiscal cliff," the Park Service could lose 8 to 10 percent of its funding next month. What could this mean in real terms for national parks? Here is one example of how the cuts could affect a park already facing staff shortages.
“Each year, nearly three million people visit Acadia National Park. These visitors require services like lodging, dining, shopping, and a multitude of other services, and they come back year after year because of the great experience they’ve had. Maintaining the quality experience visitors have at Acadia National Park is integral to the continued success of the business community in Bar Harbor.”
— Chris Fogg, Executive Director, Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce
Last summer, the staff at Acadia National Park saw lines out the door of its visitor center as tourists queued up to pay their entrance fees, ask questions, and sign up for ranger-led programs. Visitation is on the rise at Acadia—by 17 percent over the last three years. But a tight budget is already forcing the park to put fewer rangers at the visitor center desk.
In recent years, Acadia received a net operations budget increase that allowed the park to hire five of 20 vacant permanent positions, including an administrative officer, a supervisory law enforcement official, and someone to drive the garbage truck and empty trash cans. Still unfilled are positions in biology, equipment operations, law enforcement, and other disciplines.
For now, Acadia is able to hold on to its seasonal staff so that the park has rangers to provide interpretive services and routine tasks during the summer season, such as responding to emergencies and keeping restrooms and roadsides clean. However, any cut to Acadia’s budget is most likely to come out of seasonal hires, and a 10 percent cut could decimate the program. Because permanent staff are already overloaded (those 15 missing positions play a role), they likely could not be shifted to cover the duties now handled by seasonals, resulting in a substantial further decline of visitor services when they’re needed most.
About the author
John Garder Senior Director of Budget & Appropriations, Government Affairs
John Garder is Senior Director of Budget & Appropriations at NPCA. He is a budget analyst and researcher who advocates for more adequate funding for national parks to diverse audiences, including Congress, the White House, and the Department of the Interior.