Fed workers grounded by sequester cutbacks
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
March 11, 2013
Travel restrictions ordered due to the sequester are hitting Jackson Hole federal employees.
On Friday, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis ordered a ban for “all but essential travel,” which he defined as travel critical for health or safety or relating to a required certification.
The day before, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe directed his people to postpone all “conference-related spending and attendance” unless it was considered “mission critical.”
The cutbacks are spread up and down the ranks.
“It’s all levels of the Park Service and government that’s being asked to not travel unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said.
As a result, three employees — one with Grand Teton and two from the National Elk Refuge — won’t be making a trip to Portland, Ore., this week. The Association of Partners for Public Lands conference, to which the park and refuge have sent personnel in past years, will go ahead without them.
Travel, lodging and registration ex-penses for the three would have been paid by the Grand Teton Association, a nongovernment group.
But “even though their travel is covered by our cooperating agency, we’re not allowed to go,” Skaggs said. “It’s not necessary travel. Even though the travel is paid for by GTA, the per diem is still picked up by the park. On some level, there’s some savings.”
The previous week, Skaggs said, several Park Service employees didn’t make a trip to Jackson Hole because of the same order.
The National Park Service Academy — a program geared toward college students — was in session at Grand Teton park, and three Park Service higher-ups were scheduled to give speeches and help with the program, Skaggs said.
One employee, Rose Sennel, the deputy superintendent of the African-American Historical Park in Boston, was “at the airport and ready to fly out when she heard her travel was rescinded,” Skaggs said.
Former National Park Service Director Bob Stanton — the first African-American to hold that post — also had his trip to the academy canceled due to the order, Skaggs said.
“That shows you not just park rangers, but high-profile travelers — of the ilk of Bob Stanton — are affected,” she said.
An annual Jackson meeting for a multiagency group responsible for coordinating grizzly bear recovery in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem could be sparsely attended next month as a result of the travel ban, Skaggs said.
Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk, she said, might not be allowed to attend because the order restricts all travel beyond 50 miles.