Forest Service recreation areas open, employees return to work
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit employees returned to work Thursday after the federal legislature passed a bill Wednesday to re-open the U.S. government and temporarily fund its offices.
Forest Service officials announced the LTBMU will re-open some of its recreation sites, but some will remain closed for the season.
“Realizing we’re near the end of our normal operating season in Lake Tahoe, we’re focusing our efforts on those sites that typically remain open for a few more weeks and are extremely popular with locals and visitors alike,” LTBMU Forest Supervisor Nancy Gibson stated in a news release Thursday.
According to the Forest Service website, LTBMU land, which encompasses three U.S. National Forests, surrounds 75 percent of Lake Tahoe.
The news release stated Pope, Baldwin and Nevada beaches as well as Fallen Leaf, Meeks, William Kent and Kaspian campgrounds will remain closed because there are only about two weeks left in the regular seasonal use.
Day-use recreation sites will remain open for the remainder of the season after Forest Service officials determine they are clean and safe for use.
“This includes sites such as Eagle Falls, Glen Alpine and Big Meadow trailheads, the Sand Pit, Sawmill Pond, Echo Lakes, Logan Shoals Vista and Secret Harbor and Chimney beaches,” the release stated.
Taylor Creek Visitor Center’s parking lot and restrooms will remain open, but the visitor center offices and stream profile chamber will remain closed for the remainder of the season, the release stated, and Luther Pass Campground will remain closed.
Part of Forest Service land use projects is National Environmental Protection Act compliance, which requires public comment periods that have been inactive since Oct. 1. Because public comment periods last about 30-45 days, this may put a delay on LTBMU projects.
“We’re trying to determine how the shutdown has affected public comment timelines,” LTBMU spokesperson Cheva Heck said during a phone interview.
Woodcutting permits for firewood gathering also were unobtainable during the shutdown, and while they’re not a big moneymaker for the LTBMU, Heck said, the shutdown did cause some database problems with issuing them, so Forest Service officials are trying to get them back online.
“We want the visitors and public to get as much time in our forests as they can,” Heck said. “Looks like we’ll have some good weather at least for the next few days.”
The LTBMU, which operates under the Department of Agriculture, has about 150 employees, according to the Forest Service officials, and all but essential law enforcement and fire personnel were subjected to the 16-day furlough.
The Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act stated it will ensure federal government employees will be paid for the time period they were furloughed. The bill states the employees will be compensated at their standard pay rate for the from Oct. 1 to 16.
“Federal employees furloughed as a result of any lapse in appropriations which begins on or about October 1, 2013, shall be compensated at their standard rate of compensation, for the period of such lapse in appropriations, as soon as practicable after such lapse in appropriations ends,” the bill stated.
The bill signed by Wednesday President Barack Obama ensures the federal government will remain open until at least Jan. 15, which is when the government needs to pass the rest of its budget for the 2014 fiscal year.
In the South Shore area, during the shutdown, members of businesses located on National Forest land with special use permits were granted reprieve from the federal government to operate in the LTBMU land on which their business is located, according to various local tourism officials.
U.S. Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe Petty Officer Casey Rude said none of the area’s Coast Guard personnel were furloughed because they were active-duty military. “Operations were restricted a little due to the budget, but mission and essential training continued,” Rude said, adding extra training such as correlating with Coast Guard auxiliary civilian units was suspended during that time.
A bill was signed by Obama just before the shutdown Oct. 1 that ensured payments would be made regularly to active military personnel.
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