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Sequestration could mean big cuts for National Park Service

Posted at 10:44 PM, Feb 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-17 22:44:42-05

The National Parks Service is concerned that if the picture out of Washington is one of political disagreements, that's going to ruin this view for an awful lot of people.

McLEAN, Va. (CNN) -- Sequestration, automatic, across-the-board government spending cuts take effect on March 1, and unless Congress acts to prevent it, this will mark the beginning of more than $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next decade.

Richard Wood is on a mission to see all the country's national parks. In fact, he's already traveled to 250 of them.  With Great Falls, Virginia, now checked off his list, he has about 150 left to go.

The National Park Service covers more than 84-million acres in every state but Delaware. The agency soon may have to work with less, because of mandatory budget cuts, known as sequestration.

The National Park Service is preparing to cut $110 million out of its $2.2 billion budget.

That could mean shorter park hours, fewer employees, and possible closed camping and hiking areas when there is not enough staff.

John Garder works for a nonprofit group that supports the parks. He is worried about the looming changes.

"Five percent is a lot for the park service," Garder said. "A cut of this magnitude, which would be so damaging to the parks, would over the course of a year of federal spending save 15 minutes".

Garder says Yellowstone National Park could lose $1.75 million, the National Mall would lose $1.6 million and the Statue Of Liberty would lose $779,000.

Still, one budget expert says the cuts are not too extreme.

Isabel Sawhill says taxpayers may not mind getting a bit less in service to help control government spending.

"I think almost any organization can sustain a 5-percent cut in their budget and not interfere with their basic mission," said Sawhill. "That doesn't mean it won't be painful. It will be."

The National Park Service says 280 million people visit the park system every year.