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Incomplete picture on state of federal lands following shutdown posted on 03/01/2019

While Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California reportedly experienced damage that could be felt for decades, if not hundreds of years, during the record 35-day government shutdown in January, the federal lands on Mount Hood seem to have avoided a similar fate.

Jennifer Velez, Public Affairs Officer for the Northwest Oregon District of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), noted that the main problem they encountered after the shutdown was trash. Recreation staff conducted assessments of all recreation sites when they returned to work, and Velez noted that it took approximately 30 hours to clean up the trash.

“Thanks to any visitors on BLM who picked up trash or served as stewards to public lands,” Velez said. “A huge thank you. We know that made a difference.”

The Northwest Oregon District has approximately 250 permanent employees, Velez added, noting that some were considered “essential” and did continue to work during the shutdown, including law enforcement. She added that they do have standard operating procedures they go through in the event of a shutdown, but they find out about it at the same time as the general public.

The fate of the Mount Hood National Forest (MHNF), however, was unclear as representatives from the MHNF declined to comment on what, if any, damage was reported, the total number of employees, the number of employees who worked during the shutdown or any steps the MHNF takes in the event of a shutdown.

Laura Pramuk, Public Affairs Officer for the US Forest Service (USFS), referred the Mountain Times to online documents, including Field Operational Updates for each state that were last updated in late January, and a blog post by Chief Vicki Christiansen titled “Resume, Recover, Rest” and addressing the USFS employees. Neither addressed the questions submitted by the Mountain Times.

Pramuk added that law enforcement staff worked during the furlough, but that the Washington office wouldn’t answer specific questions.

By Garth Guibord/MT

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