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Sequestration could mean Mount Rainier does not open Ohanapecosh Visitor Center for season

Post by Jeff Mayor / The News Tribune on Feb. 20, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
February 20, 2013 3:31 pm

Here is a story I filed for Thursday’s paper on how sequestration would impact operations at Mount Rainier National Park.

Mount Rainier National Park would 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 was among the proposed cuts planned at 12 major national parks, according to documents obtained and released Wednesday by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

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

According to preliminary estimates by the coalition, a 5 percent cut under sequestration to the $2.2 billion that would be remaining in the final seven months of the National Park Service budget would require slashing $110 million.

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, it is shuttered during the winter, would affect more than 85,000 visitors. Facing 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 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.,” coalition spokeswoman Joan Anzelmo, former superintendent of Colorado National Monument, said in a prepared statement. “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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