Seattle – As Congress approaches another deadline on the federal budget, a new Environment Washington Research & Policy Center analysis, entitled Death by a Thousand Cuts, exposes the challenges facing Olympic National Park and Mt. Rainier National Park as a result of mounting funding cuts to the National Park Service.
“ At Mt. Rainier National Park, campgrounds were forced to open 2-6 weeks later than past years and over 400 formal interpretive programs and informal roving interpretation programs have been eliminated,” said Anusha Narayanan, Field Associate with Environment Washington. “We don’t want a death by a thousand cuts for Mt. Rainier National Park.”
Olympic National Park and Mt. Rainier National Park provide critical habitat for wildlife like the Roosevelt Elk, and ensures clean drinking water for Washingtonians. Visitors to the parks have been enjoying opportunities for hiking and exploring since Olympic National Park opened in 1938 and Mt. Rainier National Park opened in 1899 .
Parks closures during last fall’s government shutdown capped off the third straight year in which Congress cut funding to the National Park Service operating budget. Additional cuts from the March 2013 sequester make for a 13 percent reduction in funding for our parks in today’s dollars over this period.
Death by a Thousand Cuts gives concrete examples of how Washington’s National Parks been affected by the funding cuts.
• At Olympic National Park, there was a budget reduction of approximately $640,000, resulting in a permanent maintenance worker position being unfilled.
• At Mt. Rainier National Park, there was a budget reduction of $603,000, resulting in the superintendent leaving numerous full and part time positions unfilled.
• As a result of understaffing in Mt. Rainier National Park, campgrounds throughout the park were forced to open anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks later than in years passed
“Let’s give our parks a fresh start in 2014,” added Environment Washington’s Anusha Narayanan. “If we continue on this path, our grandchildren could be forced to explore parking lots and fracking wells instead of river valleys and mountaintops.”
While the budget deal passed in December may allow for some increase in the parks budget, it is up to Congressional spending committees to decide the actual funding levels this month.
“We urge Senator Murray to continue standing up for places like Olympic National Park and Mt. Rainier National Park by ensuring they’re provided the full funding they desperately need during the upcoming budget negotiations,” Anusha Narayanan concluded. “ Washington park lovers are counting on it.”