National Parks on Chopping Block Unless Congress Acts

Appomattox, VA - Some of our National Parks could close if Congress can't agree on a budget by the end of this year. A new report by a nonpartisan advocacy group says $218 million will be slashed from the National Park Service if automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, go into effect on January 2.

Last year, the US House and Senate agreed to the sequester before raising the debt ceiling. It's supposed to put pressure on Republicans and Democrats to agree to a budget by the end of the year. But if they can't come up with one, National Parks could be the first on the chopping block.

"We are looking at a damaging 8.2 % across national park accounts," said John Garder from the National Parks Conservation Association in a phone interview.

Advocates say the $218 million in cuts would devastate places like Appomattox National Historical Park.

The National Park Service isn't commenting on the possible cuts. But it could be reducing seasonal employees, cutting back hours and even closing some of the nearly 400 National Parks across the country."

Congressman Robert Hurt, who hasn't seen the report, says it's another example of tough choices because of the nation's $16 trillion in debt.

"That's four times what the federal government spends in a year. It's appalling, it's grotesque and it's going to have consequences," said Hurt.

"The National Parks Service has not caused our deficit problems and reducing funding for them is not going to solve our deficit problems," said Garder.

But the Appomattox 1865 Foundation has certainly proved the private sector can help.

"National parks are precluded by federal law from raising money for themselves. They are also not allowed to market themselves. As the nonprofit partner of the parks, we do that for them," said Sue Cochrane.

With another battle brewing, maybe in Appomattox there's proof that history does have a way of repeating.

"I'm constantly amazed at how relevant this history always is. It's 150 years ago, it's always right now," said Ernie Price.

Party leaders and the president have vowed to avoid the cuts. So, once the elections are over, congress will have two months to come up with some sort of compromise.