Gary Kazanjian/The Associated Press
Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 | 10:15 a.m.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The towering giant sequoias at Yosemite National Park would go unprotected from visitors who might trample their shallow roots. At Cape Cod National Seashore, large sections of the Great Beach would close to keep eggs from being destroyed if natural resource managers are cut.
Gettysburg would decrease by one-fifth the number of school children who learn about the historic battle that was a turning point in the Civil War.
As America's financial clock ticks toward a so-called sequester that would cut funding to countless government agencies, The Associated Press has obtained a National Park Service memo that compiles a list of potential effects at the country's most beautiful and historic places.
"We're planning for this to happen and hoping that it doesn't," said National Park spokesman Jeffrey Olson, who confirmed that the list is authentic and represents cuts the department is considering.
Most of the Park Service's $2.9 billion budget is for permanent spending such as staff salaries, fuel, utilities and rent payments. Superintendents have about 10 percent of their budgets for discretionary spending for things ranging from interpretive programs to historic-artifact maintenance to trail repair, and would lose half of that to the 5 percent cuts.
Employees would be furloughed for more than a month.
Park Service Director John Jarvis last month asked superintendents to show by Feb. 11 how they would absorb the funding cuts. The memo includes some of those decisions.
"We remain hopeful that Congress is able to avoid these cuts," said Olson.
One in five international tourists visits one of America's 398 national parks, research shows, and the parks are one-third of the top 25 domestic travel destinations. If the cuts go though, the memo shows national parks will notice fewer services, shorter hours and the placing of some sensitive areas completely off-limits to visitors when there isn't enough staff to protect resources.
Programs on the chopping block include invasive species eradication in Yosemite, student education at Gettysburg, and comfort stations on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi.