Federal shutdown affects local U.S. Forest Service | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Federal shutdown affects local U.S. Forest Service

Eric Heinz
The federal government shutdown caused the Lake Tahoe Management Basin Unity to close almost all of its services and furlough employees Tuesday. A closure sign hangs on the front door of the U.S. Forest Supervisor's office Tuesday.
Eric Heinz / Tahoe Daily Tribune | Tahoe Daily Tribune

Nearly all of the 150 people who work for the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit were furloughed from work Tuesday and, if the federal government does not come out of its shutdown, will not return today.

The federal government failed to approve its annual financial appropriations in the House and Senate, which means regular U.S. Forest Service operations were suspended as of Tuesday.

“The U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit is closing Forest Service-operated facilities and canceling Forest-Service staffed events due to the lapse in federal government funding,” Forest Service spokesperson Cheva Heck stated in a news release Tuesday.

Most forest roads and gates will remain open for the time being, the release stated.

According to a Department of Agriculture’s shutdown policy, during a government fallout of funding visitors of national forests must leave within 48 hours of the decree to shutdown the government agency.

The forest supervisor’s office and Taylor Creek Visitor Center are closed, the release stated, but law enforcement and fire suppression personnel remain on duty.

Furthermore, employees who have been furloughed without pay are not allowed to continue to do their job — in fact they are reprimanded if they try, to the tune of a two-year imprisonment or $5,000 fine, according to a furlough document provided from the Forest Service administration to its employees.

Under the Anti-Deficiency Act, it can be illegal to expend federal funds that have not been approved in legislation.

Some federal agencies, with the exception of a couple news releases, would not respond to additional questions in regard to their operations due to the shutdown’s mandates.

According to a forest service Travel Management Plan study in 2012, 75 percent of Lake Tahoe shoreline is covered by U.S. Forest Service Land.

Also, the Fall Fish Fest, formerly the Kokannee Salmon Festival, which was scheduled Oct. 5-6 at the Taylor Visitor Center, is now canceled. According to figures from the U.S. Forest Service, about 10,000 people usually attend the festival.

The majority of people who attend the festival are locals, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority media relations and events specialist Mike Frye stated in an email.

Frye stated there are 1,350 campground units in the South Shore area alone, but he also stated many of them are adjacent to parking sites, which are not regulated by the U.S. Forest Service.

Occupancy rates, he said, for the South Shore area are about 68 percent during the month of October of all campground sites in the South Shore area, but not all of the campgrounds are on USFS land.

In other news, both the House and the Senate passed a last-minute bill to ensure programs and benefits for military veterans will continue to receive funding. H.R. 1412 extends appropriations that expired at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

Federally subsidized food programs, on the other hand, will see a freeze in funding from the Department of Agriculture’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Service Contingency and Reconstitution Plan.

State agencies may be able to help continue providing subsidized food programs for those who qualify, the plan stated.

The U.S. Postal Service will continue operations, and federal protection and public safety needs also are not expected to experience major furloughs.

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