NPS to leave open 900 full-time job slots, 1,000 seasonal positions

Posted: Mar 13, 2013

Written by

John McArdle, E&E
NPS ranger

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis offered the most detailed account to date of how sequestration funding cuts are affecting the agency in a letter to his employees Friday that at times struck an almost apologetic tone.

To meet funding reductions, Jarvis wrote, 900 permanent positions won't be filled and 1,000 fewer seasonal employees will be hired this year. Meanwhile, he said, there will be "limited" furloughs, specifically in the ranks of the U.S. Park Police.

All NPS participation and attendance in conferences scheduled for this month has been canceled, Jarvis wrote. And those scheduled for the balance of the year are under review. In addition, a travel ban is in effect for everything except "essential" travel, which is defined as travel critical for health and safety and travel to attend training required to retain mission-critical certifications.

The letter comes as Republican lawmakers have accused the Obama administration of cutting high-profile programs as a scare tactic to make the public believe sequester cuts are worse than they actually are.

Jarvis said employees should expect the impacts to be felt throughout every aspect of their work. And he stressed that during this time the service needs to be clear in explaining "the genuine impacts those cuts will have" to the media as well as those who use national parks.

"Fewer law enforcement rangers and USPP officers mean lower levels of protection and longer response times. Fewer maintenance personnel mean that parks may have to close facilities completely when breakdowns occur -- and that the $12 billion maintenance backlog will continue to grow," he wrote.

"Fewer management and administrative personnel can translate into lower levels of accountability and oversight. Our investments to control invasions by exotic plants and animals will be wasted as they regain toeholds in parks. Our community support programs will reduce grants and technical assistance to states. Uncertainty about access to everything from interpretive programs to facilities could send visitors elsewhere, with impacts to entrance fees, concession revenue, and the tourism economies in gateway communities."

Travel and conference attendance restrictions are already being felt this week, at this year's George Wright Society conference on management of protected lands and cultural sites. The biennial event, which is taking place in Denver this year, has been a popular draw for service employees in the past.

According to an NPS spokesman, no service employees are going to the meeting on government time or expense this year, though some employees have decided to take leave and pay their own way. Those who are going aren't being allowed to represent NPS at the event. For its part, the George Wright Society is pushing more of its content online in the form of free podcasts to try to bring the event to those who can't attend in person.

Jarvis, who began his career in the service in 1976 as a seasonal interpreter and worked his way up from park ranger to park superintendent and regional director, thanked his employees in his letter Friday for their "hard work and conservative fiscal approach in this most unusual -- and difficult -- time."

Joan Anzelmo, a spokeswoman for the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, said this morning that she believes Jarvis' letter was meant to drive home the reality of the situation to employees who still may believe the impacts of sequestration can be averted.

"Congress has cried wolf so many times," said Anzelmo, whose group has been closely tracking sequestration's impacts on the service. "I think for a long time since every time there is a crisis of some kind there is a last-minute fix. ... I think [the letter] was both helping [service employees] understand the reality and a bit of a pep talk in terms of his appreciation for the work they are doing.

"Jon came up through the ranks, and this hurts him to have to tell employees that they can't do the job they signed on to do to serve their country," she said.



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