The Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area — like other National Park Service units across the country — faces budget cuts beginning March 1 if sequestration efforts fail in Congress.
According to a leaked internal memo, the Big South Fork NRRA faces budget cuts of $220,000 for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013 — from $4,401,000 to $4,181,000.
The BSF's "sister unit," the Obed Wild & Scenic River in Morgan County, faces budget cuts of $51,000 for the remainder of FY 2013 — from $1,027,000 to $976,000.
The cuts loom as the National Park Service prepares for an across-the-board, five percent cut to its budget for the remainder of FY 2013 if sequestration efforts fail in Congress.
The NPS cuts are among $85 billion in automatic federal budget cuts that will take effect on March 1 if Congress does not agree on a long-term deficit reduction plan.
The cuts to individual units became known last month when a NPS internal memo was leaked to the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, which in turn published the memo on its website.
NPS spokesman Jeffery Olson released a written statement Tuesday, saying that towns located near national parks should expect reduced tourism and lost revenue.
In his Jan. 25 memo to regional directors that was leaked, NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis instructed regional directors to cut all seasonal positions except those critical to resources protection or visitor safety.
Ways those cuts may be absorbed could include closures of campgrounds and other destinations, reduced hours at visitors centers and cuts to interpretive programs.
"We expect that a cut of this magnitude, intensified by the lateness of the implementation, will result in reductions to visitor services, hours of operation, shortening of seasons and possibly the closing of areas during periods when there is insufficient staff to ensure the protection of visitors, employees, resources and government assets," Jarvis wrote in the memo.
The Great Smoky Mountains is set to lose $944,000 due to the cuts, which the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees says would force the park to close at least five campgrounds and picnic areas.
While sequestration is scheduled to begin March 1, Congress has until March 27 to act before cuts start.
Tourism season in the BSF begins soon, with the peak of whitewater paddling season close at hand on the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its major tributaries.