Impact of federal shutdown expected to be minimal in Routt County |

Impact of federal shutdown expected to be minimal in Routt County

A U.S. Forest Service employee answers phones in the Steamboat Springs office. The most recent federal shutdown is expected to have minimal impact on Routt County. (File photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For the general public, the impacts of the federal government shutdown on Routt County federal lands and operations are relatively minimal at this time.

Thursday marked the sixth day of the shutdown, as President Donald Trump continues his standoff with Democrats in the Senate over funding for the border wall.

According to local U.S. Forest Service officials, law enforcement is functioning as usual.

Fish Creek Falls remains open, as are other sites where fees are collected. Reservation and rental systems, such as for the Seedhouse cabins, are still open and available.

In other areas, where fees are not collected, like Muddy Pass, facilities will not be maintained, and restrooms will be closed.

Everything related to Steamboat Resort will operate as usual, as will other entities with special permits for operating on federal lands, such as snowmobile outfitters and clubs with grooming permits.

Timber sales also are still active.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management website, “the majority of BLM-managed lands remain accessible to visitors; however, access may change without notice. Please be aware that there may be no BLM-provided visitor services, including restrooms, trash collection, facilities or road maintenance.”

Nationwide, the BLM has approximately 9,260 employees and will furlough approximately 6,930 employees.

Information on the number of Forest Service or BLM employees in Routt County that are now on furlough was unavailable, but federal officials said more information will likely be available after the weekend. A year ago, there were 40 employees in the Steamboat and Yampa Forest Service offices. Both offices are now closed, but visitors can still go talk to Colorado Parks and Wildlife employees in Steamboat, as they share an office.

When Routt County Search and Rescue volunteers go onto federal lands, they typically call the Forest Service to let them know where they are going, said incident commander Kristia Check-Hill, and they assist each other when appropriate. However, Check-Hill said the shutdown won’t have any impact on Search and Rescue’s ability to rescue people.

Across the country, more than 800,000 federal workers are now furloughed or required to work without pay. That includes 3,600 forecasters with the National Weather Service as well as 42,000 members of the Coast Guard, thousands of law enforcement offices and 5,000 firefighters with the Forest Service, according to officials.

The federal shutdown is also affecting national parks.

At Rocky Mountain National Park, “park visitors are advised to use extreme caution if choosing to enter the park, as park personnel will not be available to provide guidance or assistance,” spokeswoman Kyle Patterson told The Denver Post. “Emergency services will be limited. Any entry to the park during this period of federal shutdown is at the visitor’s sole risk.”

For those most directly affected who work for the local agencies on furlough, there remains uncertainty about how long and to what extent the shutdown will impact their jobs and their paychecks.

Trump stated in a Christmas Day press conference that many of the federal workers want the wall. On Thursday, Trump tweeted “Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?”

Neither of those assertions are fact-based.

Among the total 53,200 civilian federal workers in Colorado, many of those furloughed will likely be eligible to receive unemployment benefits, according to Colorado’s Unemployment Insurance Division.

On Twitter, the hashtag #ShutdownStories is filled with personal accounts of how people are affected and stories of the financial uncertainty many federal workers face.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are scheduled to keep running during the shutdown because they fall under “mandatory spending” programs. The U.S. Postal Service has independent funding sources that allow it to keep operating.

At the Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden, all TSA employees are continuing to work, and there isn’t any impact being felt, said Airport Manager Kevin Booth.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @KariHarden.

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