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Looming federal budget cuts are bad news for Mount Rainier National Park

  • The (Tacoma) News Tribune
  • Published Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, at 6:45 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, at 6:50 a.m.

Mount Rainier National Park will not open the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center this season if Congress and the Obama administration fail to reach a budget deal by March 1.

The closure is among proposed cuts planned at 12 major national parks, according to documents released Wednesday by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

Mount Rainier faces a mandated cut of $604,000 in its annual operating budget should the “sequestration” budget cuts take place. Olympic National Park’s budget would be cut by $639,000.

Under sequestration, a 5 percent cut to the $2.2 billion remaining in the final seven months of the National Park Service budget would amount to $110 million, according to preliminary estimates by the coalition.

While park managers have been planning for budget cuts for more than a year, Park Service Director Jon Jarvis in January ordered parks to develop specific proposals.

Not opening the Ohanapecosh center, which is shuttered during the winter, would affect more than 85,000 visitors. With a 5 percent cut, the park would not have the funds to operate and maintain the small center in the park’s southeast corner.

Attempts on Wednesday to reach Mount Rainier managers to get further details were unsuccessful. They have previously been instructed not to discuss the potential cuts. Details of cuts at Olympic were not available.

“Congress might just as well put a big ‘Keep Out’ sign at the entrance to Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the Cape Cod Seashore and every other iconic national park in the U.S.,” said coalition spokeswoman Joan Anzelmo, former superintendent of Colorado National Monument.

“Millions of Americans depend on national parks for their vacations and livelihood. Those Americans are being told that national parks don’t count, that people who use national parks don’t count and that people who live and work near national parks don’t count.”

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