Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sequestration Won't Impact Snow Plowing on the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Effective March 1, 2013, Glacier National Park was required by "sequestration" (a series of automatic, across-the-board permanent spending cuts) to reduce its annual base budget by five percent. The park's base budget of approximately $13.5 million was reduced by $682,000. The park must absorb that cut in the remaining months of this fiscal year that ends September 30. The federal law imposing sequestration requires that each park take this cut.

Acting Glacier National Park Superintendent Kym Hall said, "We took a thoughtful and analytical approach to implementing program reductions as outlined by Congress, while taking into account the number of visitors served, number of visitors impacted, revenue loss versus savings gained, economic impacts to the surrounding communities and businesses, resource stewardship, and critical life, health and safety concerns for employees and visitors. Hall continued, "It is challenging, and the reality is that we all will see and feel the effects of sequestration." She said that these are the impacts for this season, and it is unknown what the impacts will be next year, but she anticipates that 2014 will be filled with many more challenges and changes."

A delay in the spring opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road was considered in response to sequestration. A generous offer from the Glacier National Park Conservancy and salary savings from unanticipated personnel changes will be used to maintain the seasonal positions and the overtime needed to facilitate snow plowing efforts with the opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Hall said, "We greatly appreciate the financial offer from the Glacier National Park Conservancy. Their timely support will allow for the continuity and emphasis we place on snow plowing activities, especially as crews approach the "big drift" near Logan Pass and the culmination of the tremendous road opening effort."

Snow plowing efforts throughout the park are being initiated, with weather and road rehabilitation being key factors in visitor access to Logan Pass and the entire 50 miles of the road. Hall said, "We understand the value of access to the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road and we will be able to maintain the general snow plowing schedule. She said some other road maintenance activities, such as grading, striping and patching, will be reduced in the fall.

In response to sequestration, the park reduced travel, training, overtime, vehicle leases, and supply and equipment purchases for the remainder of the fiscal year. Travel and training restrictions are currently imposed, only allowing employees to travel and attend meetings or training sessions that are in the local area, or that fulfill a certification required for the position held.

Other actions in response to sequestration include a delay in hiring of vacant permanent positions and the elimination and reduction in length of season for some seasonal positions. The park employs approximately 135 permanent employees, and approximately 350 summer seasonal employees, with a core season of Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The impacts from reduced seasonal staff will affect several areas of park management, including:

* Delayed trail access and decreased trail maintenance,

* Reduction in native plant restoration,

* Reduced shoulder-season access to campgrounds and visitor centers,

* Decrease in entrance station hours,

* Less maintenance work on park facilities, roads and utility systems,

* Limited and delayed emergency response outside the core season,

* Decreased educational programming and ranger-led activities,

* Less back-country volunteer coordination,

* Reduction of revenue from impacted campgrounds, and

* Reduced partner financial aid assisting interpretive programs resulting from loss of revenue of partner bookstores in park.

For information on all campground and visitor center opening and closing dates, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

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