May 02, 2013

Impact of Sequester Cuts Felt at Lee Metcalf NWR

Lee Metcalf NWRThe Montana Standard recently published an article that highlights the many problems that the sequester is having — and will have — for the National Wildlife Refuge System, which is a land system already cut to the bone and heavily reliant on volunteers to get much of the work done. The article focused on how the sequester cuts are impacting Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge in Montana.

On the same week that Congress passed legislation to end furloughs of air traffic controllers after being deluged by complaints, [Refuge Manager Tom] Reed was creatively trying to come up with plans to retain a Youth Conservation Corps crew and find a way to retain scheduled public events without offering his employees any additional pay for hosting them…

The Bitterroot Valley refuge’s budget took a 6.2 percent cut as a result. But the cuts don’t stop there. “Agencies are holding monies back right now because of the unclarity of the situation,” he said. “Right now, our budget has been cut by 10 percent.”

Region wide, Reed said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently has 37 vacant positions that can’t be filled because of a hiring freeze. On top of that, seasonal positions aren’t being filled.

That means Reed can’t hire a YCC [Youth Conservation Corps] crew coordinator at this point.

“I’m trying to get creative and maybe find a student intern to fill that position,” he said. “I’m looking at a number of options right now.”

Many refuges rely on the Youth Conservation Corps to perform vital seasonal work at refuges around the country, but now the sequester is impacting those jobs as well.

Wendy Wigert of the Montana Youth Conservation Corps said that organization is dealing with a good deal of uncertainty about what sequestration will mean over the long run…

“We’re probably worried more about next year,” she said. “The 10-year impacts could be devastating for us.”

“The biggest issue that people are bringing up right now is they just don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

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