Sequestration and the environment/outdoors

We’ve written before about potential budget cuts to the National Park Service and what it might do to your favorite parks as a result of sequestration — or mandatory, across-the-board federal budget cuts on domestic and defense budgets unless federal lawmakers come to a deal by tomorrow Friday, March 1. Estimates coming out today indicate a potential 5% cut to the National Park Service that would affect 100 million visitors.  What does that translate into?

Among the ripple effects of sequestration among environmental, energy and outdoor programs:

  • State-based organizations, like the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and National Resources, that manages the state park system, would take a financial hit.
  • The Bureau of Land Management will have to cut back on “seasonal employees needed for firefighting, law enforcement and visitor services” as well as delay on oil and gas leasing on federal lands.
  • At Grand Teton and Yellowstone, that means seasonal workers who are the “backbone” of the parks would lose their jobs, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
  • Campgrounds and roads being opened later at the Lassen National Park, says the Red Bluff Daily News.
  • Mandatory furloughs at the Environmental Protection Agency.

But perhaps among the most important affects:

Photo courtesy of Energy.gov
Photo courtesy of Energy.gov

The federal government, Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar notes, is working on 34 projects on public lands ranging from commercial wind farms, geothermal plants and conventional gas drilling on federal lands.

From Salazar:

“Mandatory budget cuts under sequestration, however, could delay Interior’s ability to issue permits for new development, plan for new projects, conduct environmental reviews and lease new federal lands for future development – both for renewable and conventional energy. Delays in offshore oil and gas permitting in the Gulf of Mexico, for example, could affect more than 500 exploration plans and development documents that are anticipated for review this year.”

Meanwhile, visitors to National Parks generated $30.1 billion in economic activity and supporting 252,000 jobs nationwide in 2011, according to a report released this week by the National Park Service.

So this isn’t just about getting access to a campground or trail, or being able to take your kids to a visitor’s center. It’s about jobs, as so many politicos like to say (barf), but more importantly,  it’s about sustainability and renewable energy too. These programs aren’t flawless in and of themselves, but, they deserve a fighting chance. Contact your legislators today.

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