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Canceled open house latest effect of sequester on parks, science


A much-loved open house at the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver did not take place over the weekend. The center is run by the U.S. Geological Survey, which had to cancel the program due to the federal budget sequestration.

The popular event attracted about 1,200 visitors the last time USGS opened its doors to showcase the work of the 55 people who work at the observatory. The agency has also canceled a student volcanology day planned for next weekend at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, both of which were planned as highlights of the center’s Volcano Awareness Month.

That’s just the latest concrete effect of the sequestration.

John Ewert is the scientist in charge of the observatory and says, combined with other recent cuts to his budget, sequestration means longer-term research will suffer. And he worries young people will lose interest. He says scientific understanding is like infrastructure.

“It’s intellectual infrastructure. And if we don’t keep it up, if we don’t keep renewing it with young people that are interested in science, in addressing the problems to society, then it starts to break down and we start to lose it – a little bit like a bridge decaying and it becoming a hazard to the public,” Ewert says.

The University of Washington School of Medicine estimates cuts to federal research grants will slash their budgets by $24 million this year.

Social agencies are feeling it, too. Snohomish County's Meals on Wheels program had to eliminate 2,000 meals from its deliveries.

And long-term unemployed are bracing for the worst, as cuts to their benefits loom.

Most federal agencies are facing a hiring freeze and a hold on all non-essential training and travel, as well as the prospect of pay cuts in the form of short-term furloughs.

National Parks and Forests are facing a 5 percent across-the-boards cut.

As a result, travelers to Mount Rainer will find closed doors at Ohanapecosh Visitor Center.

At Olympic National Park, roads near Hurricane Ridge have not been plowed, limiting access until the snow melts.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to