Copper Country cuts?
CALUMET – The sequestration of federal funds, which is expected to have effects throughout the country will be felt locally, also, according to National Park Service officials.
Because Congress and President Barack Obama have not been able to agree on how to avoid spending cuts forced by the Budget Control Act passed in August 2011, the sequestration, or mandatory cuts, which will total $1.2 trillion, scheduled to begin today and continue until 2021, may go into effect anytime up to midnight.
Those spending cuts will affect the National Park Service, which means locally, cuts will have to be made at Keweenaw National Historical Park and Isle Royale National Park.
Mike Pflaum, superintendent of Keweenaw National Historical Park, said there will have to be changes made throughout the park because of the funding cuts.
“We have a plan at our park how to reduce service and operations,” he said.
Hours and days of operation will be reduced at the Calumet Visitor Center, Pflaum said.
“The exact hours and days will be determined,” he said.
Pflaum said park ranger programs involving such things as tours and interpretation will be reduced or eliminated.
The park has a visitor contact station at the Quincy Mine Hoist north of Hancock, and that will be reduced or eliminated, Pflaum said.
Technical support for the park’s Heritage Sites and other partners will be reduced, also, Pflaum said.
He already knows how much funding will be cut from the KNHP budget, Pflaum said.
“We’ve been told to plan for a reduction of 5 percent,” he said.
That cut is for the entire fiscal year, which began five months ago, so that period will also have to accounted for.
“That’s like 9 percent for the fiscal year,” he said.
Although Obama has until midnight to make a change to his budget or sign the sequestration, Pflaum said that doesn’t look likely.
“Monday morning when we come in to work, we’ll be cutting costs,” he said.
Despite the funding cuts, Pflaum said KNHP won’t disappear.
“The park will stay here,” he said. “We will survive.”
Phyllis Green, superintendent of Isle Royale National Park, said the cuts will have significant impact at the park.
“For us, we kind of lose our safety net for back-country users of the north shore,” she said.
The Malone Bay and Amygdaloid ranger stations will be closed as will as the Daisy Farm campground, Green said.
There will be cuts to personnel all over the park.
“We will lose 50 percent of our seasonal staff,” she said.
One of the more popular stops for tourists on the island is the Edison Fisheries, which Green said will now not have interpretive guides.
“That will be shut down,” she said.
Efforts to eliminate invasive plant and animal species, such as the zebra mussel, will have to be stopped, also, Green said.
“We’re not at the point of eradication, and we’ll lose ground,” she said.
She will also have to reduce the hours for permanent staff at the park, Green said, but she will have to keep visitors in mind when she makes those decisions.
“I try to do it in a way that will minimize the effect on visitors,” she said.
Visitors will still be allowed at the park, but Green said they need to understand there may be added risk for those wanting to hike or camp in the more remote parts of the park.
“We can handle the visitors,” she said. “They just don’t have the safety net. The response time (of remaining rangers) is going to be doubled or tripled.”
The park’s Ranger III ferry boat will still make trips from the park headquarters in Houghton to the park twice in and twice out per week, Green said.
“We have bookings on every trip,” she said.
The various concessions on the east and west ends of the park will still operate.
“Visitors who are there for the modern amenities, they’re unaffected,” she said.
Green said Isle Royale National Park averages about 16,000 visitors per year, which is one of the lowest rates in the NPS system.
“Yellowstone (National Park) gets more visitors in a day then I get in a year,” she said.
In a written statement about the sequestration, Congressman Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, blamed the Senate and Obama for not presenting a budget, which controlled spending.
“Frankly, it’s very frustrating to see Washington once again fail to do anything about the problems our nation is facing,” Benishek wrote. “In the House, we have passed two different common sense bills last year that would have replaced the president’s sequester with smarter spending reductions, but the Senate never acted on them. They knew this mess was coming for over a year now and they have done nothing.
“Hard working taxpayers in Northern Michigan are fed up with seeing Washington move from one fiscal crisis to another. This is no way to run the government and it is killing job growth right now,” the statement continued.
“This keeps happening because the Senate and the White House have not put forward any responsible budget plan that gets Washington’s spending under control.
“We need a federal budget now. It’s time these guys in Washington get their act together and offer a plan to outline and prioritize the federal government’s spending for the next year and beyond. I’ve supported reasonable budget plans in the House the last two years. They might not be perfect, but at least these budgets are a plan. And the American people deserve a plan.”