CUSTER, S.D. (AP) — U.S. Sen. John Thune is questioning a decision to close a campground at Wind Cave National Park in southwestern South Dakota due to automatic federal spending cuts that took effect March 1.
The South Dakota Republican sent a letter to National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis questioning whether the agency is playing politics by intentionally trying to make the cuts more visible to the public. Thune said spending cuts should target wasteful spending, but that closing the Elk Mountain Campground and reducing visitor center hours will cut into park revenue.
"Reducing visitor services and denying the public access to facilities that are paid for through visitor fees is very troubling and does not seem to be a very well thought out plan," Thune wrote.
Wind Cave Superintendent Vidal Davila said in a statement that a 5 percent budget cut forced the park to close the campground to eliminate the need for two summer workers to maintain it. Evening campfire programs presented by rangers also are being cut.
"The (spending cuts) forced us to make some tough decisions that will impact visitors to Wind Cave National Park," Davila said.
The cuts also will affect other areas such as weed control, fence and building upkeep, and wildlife management, he said.