Letters From the West

Budget cuts will force later opening at Yellowstone

Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, in his talk at the James and Louise McClure Center for Public Policy symposium on the debt Tuesday, recalled the movie Blazing Saddles as he talked about what Congress did to itself with the upcoming $85 billion sequestration cuts.

It was the scene where the sheriff put his gun to his head and says “next man moves, the sheriff gets it.(though the character Bart said something worse than sheriff)

Former Sen. Alan Simpson said people can expect to wait in the security line longer at airports due to what he called “painful, disruptive,” cuts. Sen. Mike Crapo said he expected the cuts to go into effect March 1.

The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees released information Wednesday they got that says Yellowstone National Park will delay spring road opening operations inside the park and to the west, south, east, and northeast entrances.

That will help them meet the targeted 5 percent cuts by reduced or delayed seasonal hiring, extended unpaid furloughs for employees, and reduced operating expenses including fuel, equipment and maintenance. Excess to the park will be delayed two to three weeks keeping out more than 78,000 visitors, most who will come from neighboring states. It also is expected to reduce park fee revenue by more than $150,000 and reduce income for concessionaires and surrounding community businesses who can use every dime during the shoulder season.

At Grand Teton National Park they will close the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve, and the Flagg Ranch Visitor Contact Station, for the summer season affecting over 300,000 visitors. The Grand Teton Association will lose $225,000 in sales revenue as a result of the closures, the coalition said.

I still can’t get the specifics for Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve but they depend on seasonal employees and will have to meet the same goal.

Similar cuts are expected at other parks.

Glacier National Park will delay opening the Going-to-the-Sun Road by two weeks, the only road which provides access to the entire park. Grand Canyon National Park will delay opening the East and West Rim Drives and reduce hours of operation at the main Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Yosemite National Park will delay the opening of the Tioga and Glacier Point roads by up to four weeks.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

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