Park Service guts budget to fight terrorism

  The National Park Service plans to cut millions of dollars in trail and building repairs to cover its share of the “war on terror.” Since 2001, the Park Service has moved more of its rangers to parks with international borders and high-profile icon parks such as the Statue of Liberty. As rangers are reassigned, their home parks are building up extensive costs in overtime pay for the remaining employees.

An internal memo, obtained by the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, says that the Pacific West region of the Park Service is proposing to cut its repair budget by 28 percent, or $4.6 million, to pay for anti-terrorism measures.

The Pacific West region includes California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and Hawaii, but Park Service spokeswoman Elaine Sevy says the repair budget cuts are system-wide. At the current “code orange” alert level, the Park Service spends an additional $2 million each month in security costs — but because the agency is not included in the Department of Homeland Security, it does not receive any additional funding for anti-terrorism expenses. Sevy says cutting the repair budget is the “strategy that will have the least impact on park operations,” and most projects can be delayed for a year without causing any problems.

But those cuts will deepen the Park Service’s budget crisis: The agency has a $5 billion repair backlog, and a recent study by the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association found that the Park Service’s operating budget is 34 percent short of its needs. Repair projects that may be shelved include $250,000 in trail maintenance throughout the park system and seismic retrofitting of buildings at Golden Gate Recreation Area. Reallocation of repair funds will have to be approved by the Department of the Interior and Congress.