Local Air Show Suspended Indefinitely Following Sequestration

By Beacon Staff

In the aftermath of the federal government’s sequestration, the National Park Service is warning employees of upcoming reductions and the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce is postponing the Mountain Madness Air Show after the cancellation of the main performance.

Chamber President Joe Unterreiner announced last week that the event would be suspended “indefinitely” because the stars of the show, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, have been grounded due to federal budget cuts.

“This is disappointing news for the committee, but more importantly for the entire community,” Unterreiner said in a statement.

“An air show always brings a major economic benefit to the area. The shows attract thousands of out-of-market visitors. And last time, our air show concessions enabled non-profit and community organizations to raise more than $50,000 for their work here in the valley.”

The Thunderbirds are a squadron of highly experienced Air Force officers who tour the nation holding air show demonstrations. The Air Force in December released its schedule for this upcoming season and chose to return to Kalispell for the first time in years. The Thunderbirds, including Kalispell Captain Jason Curtis, were scheduled to join a list of other performances by local and regional aerial teams at Glacier International Airport, July 20-21.

“If they were to cancel the Thunderbirds we would have to give some serious consideration to the viability of the whole show,” Unterreiner told the Beacon last week before the Air Force confirmed the cancellation of the Thunderbirds season due to sudden budget cuts.

All federal agencies are being forced to slash budgets following the across-the-board $85 billion sequester. President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders failed to reach a deal in their budget standoff by the March 1 deadline.

Jonathan B. Jarvis, the director of the National Park Service, told park employees to brace for sudden changes due to cuts, according to an internal memo obtained by the Beacon. The NPS will have to reduce its budget by 5 percent, which means among 398 parks, Yellowstone will have to slash $1.8 million from its mid-year budget and Glacier will need to cut $682,000.

“There will be wide-ranging and long-term consequences. And there will be – and already have been – negative impacts across our entire workforce,” Jarvis wrote.

Jarvis said there is a department-wide hiring freeze for all vacant permanent positions and furloughs of permanent and seasonal employees are likely.

“I want to emphasize to you that keeping positions vacant is not a sustainable strategy; it cripples our ability to meet mission responsibilities – from providing education programs to kids, to coordinating wildlife research, to managing museum collections – and it increases the burden on remaining staff that take on additional critical work that cannot go undone,” Jarvis wrote.

Jarvis said the park’s ability to combat threats from invasive species will also be hampered because fewer resources are now available.

“Sequestration will have long-term and wide-ranging effects,” he wrote.

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