The primary thing tourism-based business owners and visitors in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties need to know about the ongoing partial shutdown of federal government agencies, including those under the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture, is that Yosemite National Park remains open with limited visitor services and concessions are supposed to be operating normally.

The partial shutdown also means that in the Mother Lode some Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management offices are now closed for the holidays, and it’s unclear when they will reopen.

In Yosemite National Park on Sunday, the kiosks where rangers normally collect visitor fees at the Big Oak Flat entrance on Highway 120 were unstaffed and one of the lanes was open, allowing people to drive into the park without paying.

Two detailed signs were taped to the kiosk window so motorists could see them.

“Due to the lapse in federal appropriations, the National Park Service (NPS) is unable to fully staff the properties under its management,” one notice began. “It is not feasible to close or otherwise prohibit all access to NPS properties.”

The other notice includes information about what services are available and which ones are limited. They include emergency services. Visitors in Yosemite can call 911 for help but response times may be increased. Roads in the park that are normally open this time of year may close due to snow, rockfall or tree failures, and instead of being reopened they may stay closed.

All entrance stations to the park are unstaffed during the shutdown. Visitors centers and the park museum are closed. Restrooms at or near concession facilities will remain open. Restrooms not close to concession facilities are closed due to staffing reductions.

Concessions, including lodging, tours, restaurants, stores, the Yosemite Valley shuttle system, and gas stations operated by concessionaires, will remain open.

Campgrounds are unstaffed right now and reservations are not being honored, according to the National Park Service.

“Visitors will not be asked to leave campgrounds unless there is a life and safety risk,” the National Park Service notice at the Big Oak Flat entrance stated Sunday.

In Sonora, a sign outside Stanislaus National Forest headquarters on Monday said, “This office will be closed Monday, December 24 & Tuesday, December 25, 2018, in observance of Christmas Holiday Season. We will reopen Wednesday, December 26, 2018.”

Another sign posted next to it said, “This U.S. Department of Agriculture office is currently closed, due to the lapse in federal government funding. This office will reopen once funding is restored.”

A Stanislaus National Forest webpage stated Monday, “Due to a lapse in federal funding, this USDA website will not be actively updated. Once funding has been reestablished, online operations will continue.”

Asked Friday – before the shutdown became effective – what a partial federal government shutdown could mean in the Stanislaus National Forest, if there would be any staffing changes or changes in services, a spokesperson said, “We have not received any instructions about shutting down, so we will continue business as usual unless instructed otherwise.”

She also recommended contacting the Forest Service's national press office and the White House Office of Management and Budget. Calls to those offices on Monday proved fruitless. The Forest Service's national press office did not respond to a phone message and the White House Office of Management and Budget’s phone switched to a busy signal after a couple rings.

Also on Friday before the shutdown took effect, Serena Baker, a spokesperson for the federal BLM Central California District in El Dorado Hills, said only Department of Interior press staff were authorized to answer questions on the potential shutdown. Department of Interior press staff did not respond to questions.

Lauren Meredith with the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees New Melones, said Friday, “We are already funded. We would not be impacted, nor would any of our facilities.”

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.



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