Thursday, February 21, 2013

Will sequestration really delay the opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road?

Well, it looks like the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR) is at once it again. Yesterday they published a press release that details information (purportedly leaked to them by the National Park Service) on how sequestration-related cuts will be implemented in our national parks. In the release, the CNPSR provides this short blurb that's clearly intended to leave the American public quivering in our hiking boots:

"Now the specific impact of the sequestration meat-cleaver on America’s national parks is becoming clearer and even more alarming."

In addition to the details on nine other parks, the CNPSR provides some information concerning Glacier:
Glacier National Park in MT will delay opening the Going-to-the-Sun Road by two weeks, the only road which provides access to the entire park. In previous instances, closures of Going-to-the-Sun Road have resulted in financial distress for surrounding communities and concessions well into millions in lost revenues.
This really makes absolutely no sense on several levels:

1) From a purely financial perspective, how would Glacier save any meaningful dollars by delaying the opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road by two weeks? The same amount of work still has to be done to clear the road - right?

2) Why would Glacier cut off its nose to spite its face? If you were running a business, wouldn't you do the things that would generate the greatest amounts of revenue? Purposely delaying the opening of the main road through the park only decreases the amount of revenues the park collects during its short season - by two weeks - thus exacerbating the situation the NPS and Federal Government find themselves in. Not only would park revenues be reduced, but all the taxes generated by travelers would also be potentially reduced.

3) What kind of an evil person, whether it be in the Obama Administration, the National Park Service, or at Glacier National Park, would make the decision to purposely inflict pain on the surrounding communities and concessions - knowing full well that there are many, many other low-priority projects that could take a back seat?

4) Most importantly, this will never happen - even if sequestration is allowed to pass. These are simply scare tactics being used by special interest groups around the country to scare Americans into believing that they must pay more in taxes. As I fully explained in my blog posting on Tuesday, sequestration will only cut $44 billion out of the overall federal budget in 2013. This amounts to a 1.16% cut in spending - not the 5% that continues to be thrown around by NPS Director Jon Jarvis and the CNPSR. Effectively, sequestration would reduce the National Park Service budget from $2.99 billion to $2.96 billion.

Even if we were to assume that Jarvis is correct, a cut of 5% would only draw the NPS budget down to $2.84 billion - which is still higher than the amount that the NPS spent in 2008, or any year before that. If I'm not mistaken, the Going-to-the-Sun Road was cleared of snow in 2008, and in every year before that.

In my view the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees is providing false and/or misleading information concerning sequestration in order to scare Americans into believing that the only solution to all of our problems is more government spending.

Glacier National Park Hiking

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