Death by a Thousand Cuts

Cape Cod National Seashore and other parks are underfunded, under threat

Environment Massachusetts

Boston – As Congress approaches another deadline on the federal budget, a new Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center analysis, entitled Death by a Thousand Cuts, exposes the challenges facing the Cape Cod National Seashore and other national parks in Massachusetts as a result of mounting funding cuts to the National Park Service.

“Generations of Bay Staters have gone to our national parks to swim, hike, enjoy the outdoors, and learn about our state’s history,” said Ben Hellerstein, field associate with Environment Massachusetts. “Our parks are a critical part of our state’s natural and historical heritage, but right now, they face a death by a thousand cuts.”

In total, the National Parks Service maintains 18 parks in Massachusetts, comprising 46,000 acres of land across the state. Massachusetts’s national parks saw over 10.4 million visitors in 2012, and produced $432 million in economic benefits for the state in 2011.

Parks closures during last fall’s government shutdown capped off the third straight year in which Congress cut funding to the National Park Service operating budget. Additional cuts from the March 2013 sequester make for a 13 percent reduction in funding for our parks in today’s dollars over this period.

Death by a Thousand Cuts gives concrete examples of how Massachusetts’s national parks have been affected by the funding cuts:

  • $376,000 was cut from the budget for the Cape Cod National Seashore as a result of the sequester last March, forcing the parks superintendent to hire 10 fewer seasonal rangers and cancel nearly half of all education and recreation programs.
  • At Adams National Historical Park, budget cuts have led to an across-the-board hiring freeze.
  • At Lowell National Historical Park, funding was cut to an outdoor youth theater program and the Lowell Folk Festival.

Massachusetts elected officials weighed in on the importance of restoring funding to the National Parks Service on the occasion of Environment Massachusetts’s release of Death by a Thousand Cuts.

  • “National parks are known as one of America’s best ideas,” said Senator Edward Markey. “But now America’s national parks are under attack by one of America’s worst ideas, the sequester. Members of Congress and past presidents of both political parties supported and nurtured our national parks for more than a century. We are just 2 years away from celebrating the centennial of the National Park Service. We should be reaffirming our commitment to National Parks and the economic, environmental and cultural benefits they provide, not cutting their budgets.”
  • “Our national parks are precious treasures that provide recreational, environmental, and economic benefits to our Commonwealth and country,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “I cherish the Commonwealth’s trails, landmarks and parks, and I strongly support full funding for the National Park Service to give them the necessary resources to protect and preserve our parks for future generations.”
  • “I think many of the residents of my district would agree that one of our greatest treasures is the Cape Cod National Seashore, which does not just provide a strong economic base for the region but also holds great meaning and significance for the millions of visitors who have graced its shores,” said Congressman Bill Keating. “Over the past three years, national parks across the country have taken hit after hit in the budget, but these cuts are shortsighted. As a member of the Congressional National Parks Caucus and avid supporter of our National Parks System, I understand that there is not only an ecological value in national parks but great economic and cultural value for local communities as well. Since the time of Teddy Roosevelt, national parks have become an invaluable part of our American identity. We must ensure they are properly protected and preserved so that generations of Americans can enjoy them in the future.”
  • “In Congress, I have the honor of representing some of our country’s most significant national parks, including the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, and the Dorchester Heights Monument as part of the Boston National Historical Park,” said Congressman Stephen Lynch. “Our national parks are symbols of our nation’s pride, history and natural beauty. They are valuable educational, natural and cultural resources, and are home to countless historical sites and wildlife. Not only do they provide educational, historical, recreational and environmental benefits, but they also have a positive economic impact on the surrounding communities. Millions of Americans visit our national parks annually generating billions of dollars in revenue, which supports thousands of jobs across the nation as well as the educational and recreational programs and protected wildlife at all of our parks. It is important that we continue to invest in and preserve our national parks, so that future generations of Americans can enjoy and benefit from them.”
  • “An adequately funded National Park Service ensures America’s natural treasures and rich history will be enjoyed for generations to come,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. “In my hometown of Lowell, the Lowell National Historical Park was the first urban national park of its kind in the United States, commemorating the catalytic role the city played in spawning America’s industrial revolution, and in doing so, has been instrumental in preserving and protecting the historic landscape of the city and revitalizing the downtown area. Additionally in my district is Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, where visitors can see first-hand where the ‘shot heard ‘round the world’ was fired and where the American Revolution began. So many Americans place enormous value on the ability to visit our national parks and our nation points to them with pride, which is why a substantial federal investment is essential to maintain and preserve them.”
  • “These parks are something that we should be encouraging the use of,” said State Representative Timothy Madden (D-Nantucket), “and we shouldn’t be shortsighted considering the return, financially and otherwise, that comes with the use of national parks. Not only do parks bring in tourism dollars, but they serve an important purpose and provide a wonderful experience for countless individuals and families that visit them.”

Wendy Northcross, chief executive officer for the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, added, “Millions of people visit the Cape Cod National Seashore each year to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with their families. The National Seashore is a pillar of our local economy, and the funding cuts of the past three years have been devastating to businesses and residents on the Cape. We hope that Congress will restore full funding to the National Parks Service, so that visitors to Cape Cod continue to experience the same natural beauty that generations have enjoyed.”

While the budget deal passed in December may allow for some increase in the parks budget, it is up to Congressional spending committees to decide the actual funding levels this month.

In recent months, Environment Massachusetts has talked to tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents about the threats posed by funding cuts to the Cape Cod National Seashore and other parks, and collected over 18,000 petition signatures in support of restoring funding. Environment Massachusetts also delivered a letter, signed by twenty businesses, community organizations, chambers of commerce, and local elected officials on Cape Cod, asking Congress to restore funding to the National Parks System.

“We urge our members of Congress to keep fighting for the Cape Cod National Seashore and our other parks, ensuring they’re provided the full funding they desperately need during the upcoming budget negotiations,” Hellerstein concluded. “Massachusetts park lovers are counting on it.”

Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces through research, public education, outreach and organizing. For more information, visit