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Bryan Horwath, Forum News Service, Published February 28 2013

Sequester would mean reduced services at Theodore Roosevelt Nat'l Park

DICKINSON, N.D. - With the deadline for $85 billion in automatic federal budget cuts looming, employees at Theodore Roosevelt National Park are paying particular attention.

The park -- one of the most popular tourist destinations in western North Dakota -- could be hit particularly hard if lawmakers don’t reach a deal and Friday’s sequestration deadline passes.

“We’re still hoping that there will be a last-minute resolution in Washington,” park spokeswoman Eileen Andes said Wednesday. “If the sequester goes through, visitors can expect to see reduced services in the park.”

Although she declined to put a figure to the funding the park stands to lose if no deal is reached, Andes said service hours in visitor centers and seasonal staff would likely be cut.

“There would be a definite reduction in the number of interpretive programs we could offer,” Andes said. “Until we get exact directions from Washington, I can’t say for sure what the changes would be, but we’re expecting to cut the number of seasonal (employees) we’ll hire this year.”

Andes said seasonal employees perform a myriad of duties, including facilitating educational and family programs in park campgrounds, leading guided walks, patrolling backcountry trails and park roadways, and cleaning restrooms. The park usually hires close to 30 seasonal workers for the busier warmer-weather months and could see that number cut in half, Andes said.

In a release sent out this week, the park boasted of attracting 563,407 visitors to the park in 2011. More than $28 million was spent by visitors that year, supporting 451 jobs in the area, according to the release.

“We attract visitors from across the U.S. and around the world who come here to experience the park and then spend time and money enjoying the services provided by our neighboring communities,” said park Superintendent Valerie Naylor. “The National Park Service is proud and delighted that the visitors we welcome generate significant contributions to the local, state and national economy.”