Should there be a government shutdown due to an inability of Democrats and Republicans to reach agreement on the federal budget, the two Ranger Districts and Shawnee National Forest Headquarters would likely lock their doors.
That is what happened during the last government shutdown 15 years ago, Shawnee National Forest Spokeswoman Becky Banker said. The offices closed for two weeks, though Banker said she recalls no areas of the forest or even campgrounds closing to the public during that time.
Banker said she hesitated to speak to the ramifications of a shutdown because as of Thursday it had not happened and was in the realm of speculation. Banker said she could not give firm information on what would occur. The orders would come down from the U.S. Forest Service administration.
"The impact it would have on us if they decide to shut us down would depend on the specific instructions they gave us at that time," Banker said.
The Forest Service has postponed a trail work day originally planned for Saturday on the E-Town Trail portion of the River to River Trail due to uncertainty whether the government shutdown would take effect. If no legislation is passed extending the time federal legislators have to pass a budget, the government could come to a halt midnight Friday and Forest Service employees would not be able to assist in a volunteer work day.
Banker said as of Thursday the employees of the Shawnee National Forest are as in the dark as to what will transpire as anyone else.
"We will continue to work until somebody calls to say stop," Banker said.
Some employees could be permitted to work.
"When it shut down 15 years ago we did have some essential employees who stayed on and worked. Should they shut down at this point in time they would decide at that time who those essential employees would be," Banker said.
The public could not expect to visit the Forest Service offices for information, but other than that forest visitors should be impacted little in the case of a government shut down.
"Some services may or may not be there, depending on what our instructions are, regarding picking up garbage and that type of thing, when they tell us. To my recollection the campgrounds continued to operate (during the last shutdown)," Banker said.
Banker said she would not expect the Shawnee National Forest's instructions would include closing recreation areas like Garden of the Gods.
"I would be truly surprised if something like that happened. That's not to say it would not happen, but I'd be really surprised if it did," Banker said.
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