When the sequester hit Yellowstone . . .

As I keep saying, those who keep telling Americans that the sequester won’t have serious economic impacts are dead wrong. Yes, the 2ish percent cut to federal spending sounds modest, but many programs are completely exempt from cuts. And the cuts have to be in the fiscal year that has already begun.

And the cuts have to be to individual programs, which means that large federal agencies can’t just cut a few large line items for things like new construction.

As a result, areas that are especially dependent on federal spending — those with military installations, national parks, and the like — are going to feel pretty hard hits.

As I’ve noted here before, several areas of Georgia are going to feel some real pain — and many of those most affected are members of the military. The Savannah River Site is laying off some employees and furloughing 2,000 others one day a week.

For an on-the-ground account of what the sequester is doing in some areas, check out this great piece in The Washington Post: Yellowstone gets real about budget cuts

From that piece:

Mandatory cuts kicked in three days before the plows were to start clearing snow and ice from 300 roads at altitudes that reach 11,000 feet. Faced with an order from Washington to slice $1.8 million from his budget, the park superintendent, Dan Wenk, had considered his options.

He could slash the ranks of the 430 seasonal rangers, guides and other employees who help keep Yellowstone running every summer. But it would mean fewer visitor centers open, fewer walking tours and a risk to public safety.

He could halt the bison-management program — but the program is required under a court settlement. He could close the park for two weeks before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, but that would mean shutting out 267,000 visitors.

Or he could keep the seasonals, just fewer of them, and bring them on two weeks later, saving $450,000. He could freeze all permanent hires ($1 million), delay the snowplows ($250,000) and open most entrances two weeks late. About 50,000 visitors would be lost, and hundreds of fishing and hiking guides, rangers, and concession workers would lose their livelihoods.

The towns around Yellowstone have very low year-round populations. Those economies are heavily reliant on short seasons of intense visitation.

The piece touches upon the possibility of states backfilling the federal spending, but given the political climate of Wyoming and Montana, that seems unlikely.

By the way, if I were in charge and were faced with less federal spending on national parks, I’d simply make them more expensive and continue services at their current level. Seniors can actually buy ridiculously cheap $10 lifetime passes. Talk about entitlements . . .