Officials have prepared contingency plans to close Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks on Monday if the mandatory Gramm-Rudman cuts go into effect.
Yellowstone Superintendent Bob Barbee is trying to avoid talk of a shutdown, but if a budget agreement isn't reached the mandated cuts could bring the nation's oldest national park to a standstill, according to a park spokeswoman."Right now, we're trying to prevent people from getting into a panic over talk of the park shutting down," said Joan Anzelmo. "The superintendent is trying to avoid that."
Under provisions of the Gramm-Rudman act, a budget or continuing resolution must be passed or drastic cuts automatically will take effect. By some estimates, Wyoming's federally funded programs could be cut by 40 percent, but others expect a budget agreement to be reached that would only cut about 8 percent.
Some 300 permanent employees at Yellowstone could also be affected by the budget crunch, and one-third of the staff could face immediate furloughs, Anzelmo said. Many of the remaining employees also would be forced to take unpaid leaves while a skeleton crew would remain to provide essential services like fire and resource protection.
At Grand Teton National Park, the worst case scenario could close the park and furlough nearly all of the park's 100 permanent employees. Assistant Park Superintendent Jim Brady said talk of furloughs has not been well received.
"Obviously, it doesn't do much for our employee morale," he said.
Anzelmo said even if the parks were forced to close, they would not shut down immediately.
"We are prepared to move through an orderly, systematic closure of the park over a five-day period," she said.