Sequester looks almost certain. What now happens to public lands?

 

The New York Times article linked below discusses the effects of the now almost certain sequester on the national parks . Most people who follow this issue know that they are chronically underfunded when it comes to resource protection. The Parks aside, what about the much larger system of the other public lands?

It has already been announced that perhaps a third of the national wildlife refuges will be closed to the public. Other details are lacking, but it will make a big difference if a hold is put on letting New national forest timber sales. A huge question is funding to fight the inevitable range and forest fires?

http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/22/national-parks-on-a-precipice/ Parks on a Precipice. New York Times.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides.

42 Responses to What will happen to national parks under the sequester?”

  1. avatar Lyn McCormick says:

    I think it is time for the people to step up to protect and help manage our National Parks and Wildlife areas. What about good old-fashioned volunteering at the local level. The conservation non-profits already facilitate these kinds of efforts, but let’s get creative; what about a small tax incentive instead of a paycheck for people who live on a fixed income, or a fuel assistance fund. Our local BLM office was awarded $25,000 to remove trash on a local wild horse HMA and to oil an old corral near the entrance. However, they were charged $9000 to oil the corral by an unknown individual or organization and where the rest of the $ went is a mystery. Subsequently, the wild horse stakeholders and other public advocates rallied to attend a workshop and clean up day/weekend. At least 100 people; photographers, families with their children attended and several large flatbed trailer loads of debris were removed (which BTW was trash left by the grazing Permittees).

    • avatar Robert R says:

      Lyn did you see who left the trash?
      Some here like to blame others republican, ranchers, trappers, hunters or outfitters etc.
      It’s sounds like the Obama blame game and no responsibility.
      I’m glad you and others did what you done.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Lyn McCormick,

      During my recent trip to the southwest to escape snows of Idaho, I visited a large national park and two large national recreation areas … also some small national recreation areas. I learned that volunteers, mostly retirees already fill a number of jobs.

    • avatar Ida Lupine says:

      Couldn’t agree more.

  2. avatar Wolfy says:

    A definitely larger question is how NPS and other land management agencies will manage under the new budget paradigm. “Doing more with less” has become an outmoded phrase. The agencies have been under this draconian measure for over a decade now to the tune of five to 10 percent a year decreases. The facts are that they can’t just keep doing more with less and less funding. At some point, they will have to do less with less. That point is quickly approaching with the sequester. Actually, the land management agencies have been doing less with less; it’s just has not been as public as it is now. More contractors, more temp workers, years of deferred maintenance, and fewer full-time employees is the new norm. Privatization or State control of many parks and federal lands is only a few years down the road.

  3. avatar Denise Boggs says:

    Wolfy’s last sentence is prescient. If Sally Jewell is confirmed as SOI I believe there will be a major push to privatize public lands. As far as sequestration halting timber sales, that would be great IMO. A real opportunity to educate how unnecessary these sales are to the economy, subsidized by tax payer dollars, causing untold damage to forests, soils, water quality, wildlife habitat, etc. while lining the pockets of private industry at taxpayer expense both financially and recreationally. National Forests should be placed in the NPS and managed accordingly. It would save money as well as preserve some of our best public lands. Of course, we don’t need Sally Jewell…..

  4. avatar Elk275 says:

    It is simple. Yellowstone National Park is going to be short approximately $1,500,000 million this year. Every car going into Yellowstone Park will be required to pay a surcharge of $1.00 per passenger even if the driver has a Golden Eagle or a annual pass with over 3,000,000 visits per year this surcharge would generate enough money to over come any deficits. A few extra dollars is not going to mean anything if park or part of the park is closed. What else does not cost money these days.

    The last time that I was in Banff and Jasper National Park the fee was $5.00 per day per person. You paid the estimated amount when entering the National Park and if you under estimated the remainder was paid when you exited.

    During World War Two the Wyoming congressional delegation slipped into a war spending bill allowing a sales tax in Yellowstone National. This sales tax should be used for Yellowstone instead of the Wyoming general fund.

    Several things to ponder.

    • avatar CodyCoyote says:

      Elk275 touches on a salient point there at the end. Yes, the State of Wyoming is allowed to extend two counties –my Park County ( Cody ) and Teton County ( Jackson ) —into Yellowstone Park for tax purposes. We collect Sales Tax , the fuel tax, and the Lodging Tax ( a/k/a/ bed Tax ) , among others. The Bed Tax alone brings over $ 400,000 per year directly to my county Travel Board to spend on promotion , and that’s all they can spend it on by law. All the other tax rev goes to the State. Yellowstone has no say in how those funds are disbursed and cannot claim a portion for their own parallel needs.

      So—what does the State of Wyoming give back to Yellowstone for all the revenue they excise from it ? Pretty much only grief.

      We do no road maintenance, no infrastructure repair , no construction , provide no manpower beyond mutual aid for public safety on a per incident basis.

      What we do provide are conduits to increase Yellowstone’s burdens by encouraging over 3 million visitors a year to prevail themselves upon the crumbling understaffed underbudgeted Park.

      Yet Wyoming and especially my local Chamber of Commerce is whining about the impacts to tourism in Yellowstone this summer. Methinks they are looking thru the wrong end of the binoculars… we are enjoying the economic benefits of Yellowstone but paying little towards the costs we are responsible for elevating.

      I would agree that the gateway communities and YNP surrounds could do more ” volunteering” to help ease Yellowstone’s burden , but I honestly think the Park is brim full with all the volunteers it needs for those sorts of positions already. What Yellowstone needs is more diesel fuel and mechanics and snowplow drivers and plumbers and electricians and carpenters and paramedics, truth be told.

      Elk275’s revelation that this State incursion into Yellowstone’s tax mill was shadowy parasitic legislation done in a wartime rush is something I have not heard before. But I have not trouble believing it could have been done thus and so. It’s Wyoming, after all.

  5. avatar Nancy says:

    “Making wise choices about where to spend taxpayer dollar takes hard work. It takes an understanding of what government programs are supposed to accomplish, what they are actually accomplishing, and what would happen if they were severely curtailed or cut altogether. That is the job the Constitution assigned to the Congress and — most especially — to the House of Representatives. That job is not being done, and the sequester is Exhibit A”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-lilly/sequestration-may-do-litt_b_2744149.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

    “In the seven weeks since the new Congress has convened, the House has scheduled legislative session on only 14 days. Most of those days have been partial work days, where members were not required to be present before 6:30 in the evening — and even then, they only cast a few quick votes before going to dinner in the evening or heading to the airport by early afternoon. In terms of full legislative work days, there have been only four — and those have occurred during the middle of the policy crisis that is certain to inflict lasting damage on the nation’s economy if it is not resolved. Looking forward, the House will have six full legislative work days in March before going home for a full week at the end of March — a vacation that continues for another full week at the beginning of April. By the end of April, the House is out for another week. Nice work if you can get it”

    So, its kind of clear, OUR “Representatives”
    are probably the ones that really need to be “squestered” ( handsome salaries, perks, benefits etc.) need to be withdrawn, on hold, secluded…… until they get their FRICKEN act together and start acting and working together, like representatives.

  6. avatar Ralph Maughan says:

    I think one reason why so many in Congress are so vague about where to cut the budget is because they have almost no idea what an agency’s mission is, and they certainty have no idea if it is fulfilling its mission. They fill in their lack of knowledge by applying ideology.

    One virtue of the now dead seniority system that used to be a firm, though unwritten rule in Congress is that it tended to produce members of Congress who actually knew how programs worked, or didn’t work, in the policy areas dealt with by their committee assignments.

    In terms of wildlife management, for example, those who influenced the ESA actually knew how it was supposed to work, whether they agreed with it or not.

    • avatar Craig says:

      Well Obama and Salazar sure as hell did not! Obama is more intrested in rubbing elbows with the RICH, who he opposes than doing anything for this country.

  7. avatar Leslie says:

    Jackson hole news outlines sequester crisis cuts a bit more

    http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/article.php?art_id=9596

    • avatar jon says:

      The sequester is a bad thing. It’s going to cost many Americans their jobs. The dam republicans in the house need to be voted out in 2014. They are obstructionists.

        • avatar JB says:

          More partisan drivel. Then again, it’s what I would expect from the president of Americans for Limited Government.

          The Economist–a center-right media outlet, has run a series of articles on the effects of the sequester. One of which concludes: “If you wanted to cut the deficit in the most damaging way, you’d choose the sequester.”

          You might also try looking at some of the information presented by bi-partisan think-tanks. The Bi-Partisan Policy Center has a lengthy analysis on their website; it concludes:

          “At BPC, we estimated last year that the sequester would reduce 2013 gross domestic product (GDP) growth by half a percentage point, and would cost the economy approximately one million jobs over the next two years. More recent estimates released by the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] and Macroeconomic Advisors have roughly confirmed these projections” (emphasis mine).

          http://bipartisanpolicy.org/blog/2013/02/sequester-need-to-know

          • avatar timz says:

            Ah, I knew Obnama’s favorite apologist and ass-licker would show up, took the bait like a sucker-fish. Can’t accept the fact there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the parties. As the article clearly states a plain and simple fact.
            “Boehner and Obama’s game of “pin the tail on the sequester” ignores not only their shared support for the measure..”

            • avatar JB says:

              And I see that, per usual, you can’t but help express yourself in the crudest form possible. I also see that you’ve left your critical thinking cap at home (which seems to happen with great regularity). Had you taken the time to actually read, process, and critically evaluate my reply, you’d find that I did NOT mention Obama, nor make any comment on who was to blame (I blame both parties); rather, I restricted my comments to the effects of sequestration and the assertion (in the article you cited) that it would not have much of an effect on the economy.

              I can’t wait for your witty retort! [sarc]

  8. avatar Snaildarter says:

    Yep the Tea Hillbillies are not doing the country any favors. The amount of misinformation and the general denial of science on the Political right is scary. I think Obama liberals and moderates (reasonable people on both sides of the aisle) would meet them half way after all democracy is built on three principles compromise compromise compromise

    • avatar Ida Lupine says:

      Neither are the Democrats – since I used to be one they have been a huge disappointment. Too eager to compromise, and ecologically clueless. I am disgusted with the political posturing on boths sides, and nothing getting done. Extremes on both sides, liberal or ultra-conservative, don’t live in the real world. I don’t want to see our environment and wildlife ‘store’ sold out from under us to appease Republicans, or to maintain power. I wish we had an alternative.

  9. avatar Snaildarter says:

    Well unfortunately eco-friendly folks myself included make up about 5% of the population, luckily there is another 50-60% that is sort of on our side if it doesn’t affect their pocketbook too much. But make no mistake our current government is disfunctional because of the radicalized far right. They have far more power than their numbers deserve.

    • avatar Ida Lupine says:

      They are far worse, for sure. But how did they get into power is the question that bothers me – because of voter apathy, I think. I also question whether people would be willing to pay a tax or fee as a wildlife watcher. I hope they will – maybe our new Secretary of the Interior will be encouraging. The Democrats I worry are getting complacent because they know the Republicans are so bad they are no threat to them. We need someone, a moderate Repub, who will light a fire under them and get them moving again.

  10. avatar JB says:

    What I haven’t seen discussed here is the tremendous waste in resources generated by the sequester. Essentially, agencies have been ordered to drop everything and create plans for how they will go forward given the impending budget cuts. This equates to hundreds of thousands (millions?) of hours of government employee time spent on planning for cuts that may never come. This is an extremely inefficient way to run government!

  11. avatar WM says:

    ++This is an extremely inefficient way to run government!”

    Yup. Some of the additional spinoffs, as I understand it should things go forward, is that federal employees get 30 days notice before termination, which means unlike much of the private sector, they will be screwing around and not doing their job for that time, looking for another temp job, diddling on the computer and a bunch of other stuff.

    Then there is the part, where jobs won’t get done in various enforcement functions, which likely will mean more infractions of various types. So maybe more illegal timber cutting of NP or NF resources in the NW; BLM grazing permit violations may go undetected or unprosecuted.

    A personal nit to pick for me, is that we send all this federal tax money to DC which comes from individuals (and businesses). It costs money to send it (think of those volumes of rules, forms, booklets, tax preparation/legal fees for those who use these guys or the software some sell); it costs money to process it, in the form of IRS help lines, entry clerks, audit functions, refunds and associated postal costs. Then there is the inefficient and costly process of politicians doling out the money based on pet projects (even back to local government for hiring cops etc.), allocating the money including guidelines in the federal register, auditing, and letting contracts per federal regulations, etc. Then there is the fraud associated with huge federal government contracts and huge programs like Medicare, that are so big and complicated they don’t know how much they actually lose, let alone how to audit it and get the money back.

    Wouldn’t it just be a whole bunch more efficient to reduce the federal tax obligation and budget by half, get rid of the really non-productive jobs in government, and have Congress focus on a few federal government programs, rather than bring the entire freaking country to a near halt, when these a–holes in Congress can’t figure out how to frugally spend the local money that is sent in? Then require level taxation at the state level (all states would have to do it) and let them use the money as they please with greater efficiency?

    Certainly the latter has problems but this sequestration thing and Congressional gridlock with threats of shutting down functions is not working, either.

  12. avatar JB says:

    Here’s a petition to ensure that any pay cuts for federal employees initiated under the sequester are also applied to Congress and the President.

    http://pac.signon.org/sign/paycuts-for-congress-1

  13. avatar Snaildarter says:

    If we could figure out a way to have cuts apply to lobbist and talk show personalities salaries then we might get somewhere.

  14. avatar Wolfy says:

    It all boils down to the fact that we are spending more money than we are taking in. The biggest debt is from the illegal Iraq war and the ongoing Afghan conflict. We spent Trillion$ on tearing these countries apart only to build them back up again. Congress authorized this God-awful spending and will cut our social programs to pay for it. Time will soon tell whether the 99% will stand up and revolutionize our gov’t or stand-back and watch it fall.

  15. avatar Ryan says:

    The sequesters impacts were made purposely unpleasant by the Grandstander and cheif. I have heard it from several sources, including one of the higer ups at the BLM..

    The issue is where is all of the money going to come from to pay for all of the increases in goverment? Raising taxes continually isn’t the answer and to be honest, unless we make some large cuts, then we are in trouble.

    • avatar JB says:

      Republicans have short memories. From 1932 until Ronald Reagan, people in the highest tax bracket never paid less than 50%; then taxes for the rich started going downward while the wealth was consolidated at the top. So what do you think happens when the richest are taking in a larger proportion of the overall income and paying less in taxes? Now add in the perfectly predictable health problems associated with aging baby boomers and a two front war and you’ve created the perfect “debt” storm.

      And now the Republicans scream that a slight increase (from 35-39.6%) is going to cause an economic catastrophe. Ha! The catastrophe was engineered by those same Rs, who now want to us to trade social welfare programs so that the super rich can get even richer.

      • avatar Ryan says:

        That doesn’t change the fact that goverment spending is out of control and no amount of tax increases is going to change that.

        • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

          I guess you have to define “out of control,” because by many measures current spending is tame indeed. Many think more spending would lift the economy and reduce the deficit. The federal budget has never been balanced during a recession by any means used.

          The budget is obviously out of control in one way because Congress and the President have not been able to produce a real budget since 2010. It is not because they are lazy though. It is due to unprecedented partisan conflict. They cannot write a proper budget that will pass.

        • avatar JB says:

          Ryan:

          Take a look at this infographic (below). It shows debt as a function of GDP, which is the only way to reliably compare debt across countries and over time. Please note what was happening before Reagan and what has happened since we started lowering taxes. Where would we be now if taxes for the wealthiest Americans would’ve stayed at 50%…

          http://visual.ly/united-states-debt-percentage-gdp-1940-2012

  16. avatar timz says:

    From the last Democrat that was worth anything
    “It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today, and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the tax rates…. [A]n economy constrained by high tax rates will never produce enough revenue to balance the budget, just as it will never create enough jobs or enough profits.” —John F. Kennedy, 1963.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Whether taxes should be raised or lowered depends on the condition and direction of the economy. JFK’s tax cuts, which were actually passed by Lyndon Johnson, were very successful in ending a stagnant economy. This doesn’t make tax cuts an all purpose tool for any economic problem.

      Lyndon Johnson would have done well to move to raise taxes several years later to deflate the boom economy. This was because serious demand-pull price inflation was then underway, but he did not do it.

      • avatar timz says:

        I would say calling are current economy “stagnant” would be somewhat of an understatement.

        • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

          timz,

          My reference was to the stagnant economy of 1961-63.

          I was too young to remember the details at that time, but there had been a sharp recession in about 1957-8 under Eisenhower. Then there was a not very strong recovery under Eisenhower and continuing into the Kennedy years.

          After the “JFK” (actually Lyndon Johnson) tax cuts, which Republicans generally opposed, economic times were as good as I remember in my life except for maybe the Clinton second term.

          • avatar timz says:

            Mine was just a general statement about the state of things today. I was in fourth grade when JFK was president, the dollar I got from my aunt on my birthday was big money.

  17. avatar Snaildarter says:

    Of course Baby Bush cut taxes twice while he started two wars. He also pressured Bank regulators to back off. The reckless bubble that created almost gave us the second great depression. Now we can’t afford Social Security or Medicare. I’m not sure why so many people can’t connect the dots on that one.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey