Government Shutdown Closes Wayne National Forest

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The day started as usual for the staff of Wayne National Forest, but it ended a lot sooner for most. A little after 8 a.m. on Tuesday, during an all-staff meeting, employees were notified most of the operations were closing, an immediate effect of the government shutting down because of the impasse in Congress.

“We knew this was coming down; we’ve been preparing for it,” said Gary Chancey, spokesman for the national forest.

Effective immediately, the offices in Nelsonville, Marietta and the Ironton Ranger District in Pedro are closed, placing about 60 employees on furlough, meaning they’re told not to come to work and are not paid. That includes Chancey. Around 10 individuals who either hold leadership roles, are involved with fire safety or law enforcement remain employed to respond to potential emergencies, he added.

Facilities normally open to the public will undergo an “orderly shutdown,” Chancey said. Trails for ATVs, horses and mountain bikes will all be closed. Hiking trails and camping spots traditionally used by hunters will remain open.

The national forest falls under the U.S. Forest Service, which prepared a contingency plan for closing down the agency on Sept. 20. The agency estimates it will take seven days to complete orderly closedown procedures.

Funding during the hiatus is expected to come from unobliged discretionary funding from the previous year.

“Until Congress makes a decision on the funding, we’ll stay (closed),” said Anne Carey, forest supervisor, who attended the grand opening of the Nelsonville bypass. “It’ll be a day-by-day thing. We’re sorry for the impacts. We’ll continue to move on. As soon as Congress is able to pass authorization, then we’ll reopen.”