Businesses operating on U.S. Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit land, which surrounds Lake Tahoe, could have been shut down this weekend were it not for a reprieve from the service’s district officials Thursday.
A mandate passed down from the federal government would have shut down facilities used, but not owned by, concessionaires on U.S. Forest Service land, according to an email from Douglas County Manager Steve Mokrohisky.
Mokrohisky said he was told by U.S. Forest officials, those who were still able to work under the shutdown, that they intended to close all campsites and restrict the public from businesses on that land.
No federal employees would comment to give any indication of the mandate’s legitimacy or effects because of the stipulation that states they cannot work during the shutdown. Officials could face two years in jail or a $5,000 fine for violating this, according to a furlough document from the Department of Agriculture.
Weidinger Public Relations specialist Christina Proctor said certain events on national forest lands were issued a reprieve for the weekend, but that does not mean there could not be restrictions starting Monday. Proctor said she gathered the information from a meeting with managers at Camp Richardson in South Lake Tahoe.
That being the case, local businesses on forest lands started to make accommodations for any possible closure of these facilities, Lake Tahoe Visitor’s Authority executive director Carol Chaplin said.
“What we have done is we have started taking an inventory from business partners, asking who has what assets or space or those types of things so we can be ready to help those partners if they need it,” Chaplin said. “The problem is there’s only a few (U.S. Forest Service) employees that are able to work. What we are now understanding is (the U.S. government) has far-reaching effects, and as a tourism destination, we’re going to be impacted.”
Events and attractions, such as the MS Dixie at Zephyr Cove and Oktoberfest, which is scheduled to take place this weekend at Camp Richardson, are part of concessionaires on the federal land and will be open.
Fall Fish Fest, which was scheduled for this weekend, had already been canceled by U.S. Forest Service officials Tuesday.
“Our role is to work with the other local agencies … and private sector to find solutions to the problems that they’ve been handed,” Chaplin said. “We’re scrambling to try to help in any way we can.”
All businesses in the LTBMU are required to have a special use permit in order to operate, according to the Department of Agriculture. Although the agreements between the businesses and the Forest Service outline the specifics of business operation, the laws governing the permits do not state a clear policy that addresses what happens to private business operations during a government shutdown.
According to furlough policy, the public has 48 hours to leave federal lands during a government shutdown.
“There is an important point that should not be missed here: local governments and businesses are becoming increasingly important in providing services and information to our residents at a time when the federal government is literally inoperable,” Mokrohisky stated in an email.