Groups help keep Lake Tahoe parks clean during government shutdown
Following the nation’s longest government shutdown in history, lasting for 34 days, federal employees including those with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit are back to their normal duties.
During the winter, forest service staff work to hire seasonal employees, complete training, administer special use permits, monitor and patrol Forest Service facilities and general forest conditions and conduct prescribed fire operations, according to Lisa Herron, public affairs specialist for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
During the shutdown the public was still able to access National Forest lands in Lake Tahoe. Herron said developed recreation sites such as campgrounds, beaches and day-use areas at Lake Tahoe are closed for winter.
“So we did not see problems similar to what some National Parks experienced,” she said referring to reports of trash buildup in parks around the nation including Joshua Tree and Crater Lake.
Herron said outside agencies and organizations such as the Tahoe Fund, Nevada Department of Transportation and the Tahoe Heritage Foundation pitched in to help remove trash from the areas that were open during the shutdown.
“These groups stepped up during the lapse in funding and helped us out by removing trash from the unofficial sledding hill on Spooner Summit, reporting their observations, patrolling facilities and performing needed facility maintenance,” said Herron. “Fortunately, no illegal activities, incidents or damage was reported.”
The Forest Service was also able to continue off-highway vehicle patrolling, law enforcement activities and fire module planning and implementation. However, Herron said, they were unable to effectively plan for winter conservation education programs resulting in the cancellation of their 2019 programs.
“We are using this opportunity to review the existing programs and will return with new and improved programs for 2020,” she said.
While prescribed burns were on hold during the shutdown, Herron said firefighter training continued and training that was missed already rescheduled. They also continued the hiring process for seasonal firefighters. With a potential to be behind schedule on prescribed burns Herron said the forest service “is ready to lean forward together to respond to the nation’s fire suppression needs for 2019.”
“We are prioritizing critical activities to ensure that our wildland fire organization is ready to respond to the 2019 fire year,” she said, adding that the forest service finalized the hiring of 1,600 wildland fire employees across the nation last week.
The 34-day length of the shutdown exceeded the previous record in 1995, of 21 days.