HomeNews Government shutdown has impact on the area
Government shutdown has impact on the area
Written by Aimee Eaton
Wednesday, 02 October 2013
“We do not know how long this situation will last”
For the first time in more than a decade the United States government has failed to reach consensus over the federal budget before the beginning of the new fiscal year, which began on October 1.
As a result, a majority of government agencies were forced to close their doors, leaving much of the nation, including out-of-the-way Gunnison County, struggling to determine which area services and projects will continue and which will be shuttered. When it comes to receiving a new passport, attending a national park, placing a child into an early education program or applying for a small business loan, people within Gunnison County will be affected by the shutdown. In addition, any federal employee living within the county and placed on furlough will not be paid. The most visible effect locally, however, may be in access to public lands. The county is comprised of 78 percent federal lands. These lands are owned and managed by three agencies: the United States Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Curecanti National Recreation Area, all of which have been closed. On Tuesday morning parents and educators within Gunnison County received an email from Ellen Petrick, the education specialist at Curecanti National Recreation Area, outlining closures within the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Petrick wrote, “You are receiving this notification because you are scheduled for a Park Service education program during the month of October. As you are probably aware, certain federal services have been forced to discontinue due to a lack of appropriated funds. Curecanti NRA and Black Canyon NP education programs are cancelled at this time until future notice. “We do not know how long this situation will last… If you are scheduled for a field trip in either park, this uncertainty could be particularly problematic, due to the need to cancel buses and notify parents. It will not be possible for you to come to the park on your own. All National Park Service gates will be closed for the duration of the shutdown.” Local trail advocacy group Gunnison Trails also sent out an email Tuesday cancelling its regularly scheduled trail work at Hartman Rocks. The group stated, “Due to the government shutdown, Gunnison Trails has been instructed to suspend all projects on public lands. This extends to tonight’s planned Trailwork on Dave Moes Trail at Hartman Rocks, as well as all future Trailwork Tuesdays. Once the shutdown is over, Gunnison Trails will resume our activities on public lands.” Up at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) in Gothic, where several long-term scientific research projects are supported by federal dollars, the shutdown is showing a slyer side. “Because of the timing—the shutdown is coming after our operations have slowed down—the impact is limited,” said RMBL executive director Ian Billick. “It will create some cash flow issues for us—it will delay our ability to receive reimbursements from the federal government for work that is being funded by the government. It has meant that Forest Service employees are not available for some planning activities.” Also affected is the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), with possible implications for the listing of the Gunnison sage grouse under the federal Endangered Species Act. The USFWS was scheduled to be part of a public information session at Western State Colorado University on Monday, October 7, but it is now unclear whether that event will take place. “We don’t know what will happen,” said Gunnison County Commissioner Paula Swenson. “We don’t know what has been determined nonessential. Does this shut down the ability for the Fish and Wildlife Service to accept public comment and testimony? This could impact the whole process for the decision.” The county has been working to protect the Gunnison sage grouse since the early 1990s. The October 7 meeting is one of the last opportunities for county officials and the public to discuss the grouse with USFWS officials. The service was scheduled to receive public comment only through October 19. Other agencies affected by the shutdown include but are not limited to: The United States Food and Drug Administration (think no food safety testing); the United States Center for Disease Control (disease outbreak and flu shots); the United States Environmental Protection Agency (no pesticide regulation); the United States Geologic Survey and the National Science Foundation (the cessation of long-term scientific research); and the Federal Communications Commission (more twerking). Currently there is no timeline for the resolution of the shutdown, and many government groups have simply placed a closed sign on their doors and websites. Updates regarding government operating status and resumption of normal operations can be found at usa.gov.