Washington, DC--The National Park Service is cutting millions of dollars in needed repair and rehabilitation projects in order to pay for President Bush's directive to begin outsourcing thousands of agency jobs and for added overtime for law enforcement rangers, according to internal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Under President Bush's plan, approximately two thirds of all Park Service employees could lose their jobs to private contractors following cost comparison studies. Since Congress has not appropriated any funds to conduct these studies (estimated at approximately $3,000 per position studied), the Park Service has diverted funds earmarked for repairs.
In the Park Service's Pacific West Region¾encompassing California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada and Hawaii¾more than a quarter (28 percent) of funds slated by Congress for rehabilitation of facilities are being cut through an "assessment" levied by NPS Headquarters on account of "anti-terrorism activities and competitive sourcing studies," according to a memo from the region's budget officer, Cynthia Ip. Similar diversions of park maintenance and repair projects are occurring throughout the country.
Projects cut in the Pacific West Region include
Asbestos abatement in deteriorating buildings and repair of a collapsed tunnel drain at Yosemite National Park;
Seismic safety rehabilitation for 18 buildings in Golden Gate National Recreation Area; and
Upgrading of the sewage lagoon at Crater Lakes National Park.
"These cuts undo one of President Bush's only environmental bragging rights," commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, citing the President's pledge in a 2001 speech at Sequoia National Park to eliminate the almost $5 billion park maintenance backlog. "This is a quota-based ideological drive to replace civil servants with private contractors, regardless of the cost to the public, the Park Service or the national assets it protects."