TODAY

TODAY   |  May 27, 2013

National Parks budgets shrink as costs grow

The National Park system is a national treasure, but budget cuts, including the sequester, are forcing hiring freezes on thousands of jobs and delays in upkeep now totaling $11 billion. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> national parks like yellowstone are a popular destination, but from maine to hawaii, visitors may find the nation's treasurers are showing signs of wear and tear and in real need of upkeep and maintenance. here's nbc's tom costello.

>> reporter: they wind themselves through the very fabric of the american heartland. from the geysers and canyons of yellowstone to the depths of the grand canyon , from glacier national park to the florida everglades --

>> they're beautiful, and this is nature that we need to preserve because it's unique. only the united states has this.

>> reporter: 401 parks, battlefields, monuments, seashores, volcanos and deserts make up the national parks system. and americans have been flocking to them since teddy roosevelt took up the cause. today 280 million visitors each year.

>> we just hope that our son is going to be able to enjoy this as much as we have with his own family.

>> reporter: but the parks and their future are under stress.

>> the parks are beautiful.

>> reporter: john jarvis is the director of the national parks service .

>> but to just maintain it, we need twice as much money as we currently get.

>> reporter: just to maintain a building like that.

>> yes, absolutely.

>> reporter: the budget hasn't changed since 2006 , yet most of its costs have only gone up. now the sequester is forcing another $153 million in cuts just as tourists season begins.

>> where are you folks visiting from?

>> reporter: it mean s 900 jobs have gone unfilled including rangers, 1,000 seasonal jobs cut, police furloughed, buildings in need of repair haven't been touched in years and some park entrances are unattended. what would teddy roosevelt say if he saw the nation's parks today?

>> i think he'd be a little concerned, frankly.

>> reporter: mark wensler fights to preserve and protect the nation's parks.

>> the problem is a family visits a park this summer, they may see a crumbling road, a visitors center that looks shabby. they may not find a ranger when they want to hear a story about what they're looking at.

>> reporter: the backlog for upkeep that needs to be done now totals $11 billion.

>> it doesn't matter whether you're a democrat or republican. the american public love their national parks . and the american public expect their national parks to be taken care of.

>> reporter: a national treasure in need of some tlc. for "today," tom kos tcostello, yellowstone .

>> it's a shame that they need such repair.

>> i think a lot of times we take them for granted. we don't realize what it takes to keep them in the shape they're in.