Federal Shutdown Hits Home

Tourist economy caught in political crossfire as recreation sites close

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If you were hoping to visit the Grand Canyon this week you had better make other plans. The standoff in Washington, D.C. has spilled over into recreational sites across the country, most of which closed Tuesday amidst the shutdown.

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Many Forest Service sites have been affected by the government shutdown.

All of the U.S. Forest Service offices have closed, including the Tonto National Forest and Payson Ranger District offices, sending employees on furlough status until further notice. That means the Forest Service-owned boat ramps at Roosevelt Lake will remain closed.

The furlough has affected at least 800,000 federal workers, although Congress has exempted itself as “essential.” The military, Social Security and Medicare are also exempt from the shutdown. Ironically, so is the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, which has designated funding and starts enrolling the medically uninsured this week.

The shutdown will cost the economy $1 billion a week in lost pay, but the ripple effect will likely expand the impact to more than $10 billion a week, according to an estimate by Moody’s Analytics. A month-long shutdown could therefore cost about $55 billion, according to the analysis.

The first federal government shutdown since 1995 does not affect state, city or county facilities — including the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. Commercial marinas, like that at Roosevelt, are open as well, but not boat launches.

Volunteers at the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce said they fielded several calls on Wednesday from people who thought the state park had closed.

But sites like the Grand Canyon are closed and tourists are being turned away from the state’s most popular and iconic destination.

“As an agency within the federal government, the Forest Service is directly affected by the government shutdown,” said Angela Elam, Payson Ranger District ranger. “Until further notice all FS employees are in furlough status.”

Critical fire and law enforcement positions will continue to report to work to ensure public health and safety and protect resources and facilities, Elam said in an e-mail Tuesday.

Elam said all non-emergency projects and administrative work

is suspended until Congress reaches an agreement on the budget.

“We look forward to all our employees resuming normal work status and duties.”

Suspended activities will resume once Congress approves a budget for Fiscal Year 2014.

And essentially all services provided by the Bureau of Land Management will be suspended, with the exception of law enforcement and emergency response functions for the duration of the shutdown.

That includes approximately 4,000 recreation facilities, including visitor centers, campgrounds, boat ramps and other recreation sites.

The BLM Arizona will also furlough 452 of its approximate 507 employees during the funding lapse.

General access to the forest is open, but the following areas are closed and public services and maintenance are not being provided:

• Forest supervisor’s office

• Ranger district offices

• All developed recreation sites on the forest such as campgrounds, boat launches and picnic sites.

The following areas are open during this shutdown and will remain open until further notice:

• Trails and dispersed recreation sites

• All commercial marinas (Apache Lake, Roosevelt Lake, Canyon Lake, Saguaro Lake, Bartlett Lake)

• Concessionaire-operated camp­grounds (Ponderosa, Chris­topher Creek, Sharp Creek and Houston Mesa campgrounds).

Other services

Officials with the Arizona Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program say clinics are open and will continue to serve participants until further notice.

Arizona WIC program participants can use their WIC checks as they normally do and will continue to receive breastfeeding support, nutrition education and other services at their local WIC clinic.

Contact your local WIC clinic, visit www.AZWIC.org or call (800) 2525-WIC, if you have questions.

Web sites

Nearly all government Web sites have shut down or are not being updated because of the shutdown, including the White House and NASA.

Other impacts

• The 800,000 “non-essential” federal workers sent home this week may never make up the lost pay, although 18 years ago Congress eventually approved retroactive pay for the period they didn’t work.

• The 1.3 million “essential” federal workers who stay on the job may suffer delays in getting their paychecks, but should eventually get paid.

• Some 3.6 million disabled veterans may lose benefits if the shutdown lasts more than two weeks.

• The federal Centers for Disease Control will shut down its flu prevention and vaccination program during the shutdown.

• The federal Food and Drug Administration will stop its food safety operations, although inspectors will continue to check facilities.

• Businesses near the nation’s national parks will likely lose about $30 million a day in business. During the last shutdown, national parks turned away about 7 million visitors during the closures.

• If the shutdown lasts more than a week a variety of agencies could run out of money and suspend services, including the Social Security disability system, the Women Infants and Children program for low-income, pregnant women, and the National Institutes for Health programs that provide experimental treatments and medications for children with cancer.

Comments

Pat Randall 6 months, 2 weeks ago

So glad Payson has the spare money to keep the Natural Bridge open. Ha Ha Ha

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H. Wm. Rhea III 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Just another example of why we need to take back from the Feds the lands they've stolen from the Western States.

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