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October 1, 2013
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Federal government mobilizes to shutdown in Douglas County

Douglas County residents are about to find out what the federal government considers essential and nonessential.

The mail will be delivered and the weather will be forecast. But parks and campgrounds are closing as the country’s largest employer, with more than 2 million civilian workers and 1.4 million active duty military personnel, goes into shutdown mode.

The president of the Douglas County Veterans Forum, Jim Little, said the shutdown has a lot of veterans wondering whether they’ll lose services.

“All of us are curious to see what’s affected,” he said.

The Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center will remain open to treat veterans, though some administrative functions may cease, said Dan Ritchie, executive assistant to the center’s director.

The Department of Veterans Affairs circulated an information packet detailing the agency’s shutdown plan, titled “Veterans Field Guide to Government Shutdown.”

Vocational rehabilitation and education counseling will be limited. Interments at national cemeteries will continue on a reduced schedule.

Funding for compensation, pension, education and vocational rehabilitation programs is expected to continue through late October, but would be suspended if the shutdown is prolonged.

The self-supporting U.S. Postal Service will continue to deliver mail and keep post offices open.

Regional offices of the National Weather Service met by conference call this morning to learn how the shutdown will affect them.

The Medford office will continue to provide weather forecasts and warnings, said John Lovegrove, the meteorologist in charge.

Travel expenses and other costs unrelated to public safety will not be funded.

Lovegrove said the office is already short-staffed due to the sequestration, across-the-board budget cuts that resulted from a previous budget impasse.

“We’re an essential service, so we’re going to continue coming to work and maintaining public safety functions,” he said.

The U.S. Forest Service will close its campgrounds in the Umpqua National Forest. Campers will have 48 hours to leave before the Forest Service locks gates, Umpqua National Forest spokeswoman Cheryl Caplan said. The agency will cancel park reservations and refund fees, she said.

“On a positive note, the Umpqua National Forest is so large that there are plenty of places to camp, but don’t expect to see National Forest Service employees,” Caplan said.

Caplan said the only Forest Service employees exempt from the furlough are emergency personnel, such as firefighters.

Recreational resorts will remain open, including Diamond Lake, Lemolo Lake and Steamboat Inn resorts, Caplan said.

Forest Service employees were only in the office for a few hours this morning to spread the word of the closures. “I won’t be here after this morning, and I regret that,” Caplan said.

The Bureau of Land Management is also closing its recreation sites, including Tyee, Eagle View and Susan Creek, BLM public information officer Cheyne Rossbach said.

Campers have 48 hours to clear out. People with reservations should be able to reschedule, he said.

A total of eight Roseburg campgrounds will close.

Crater Lake National Park will also close to the public. Visitors have 48 hours to leave before the hard closure begins, public information officer Marsha McCabe said.

Law enforcement rangers and maintenance staff will remain in the park to assist people who live in the area, McCabe said.

Several U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees came to work this morning to perform an orderly shutdown at the Roseburg office, closing down the office’s computer system and locking all the doors.

Closures on federal forest lands could affect hunting season, though Cindy Rooney, president of the Umpqua chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association, said there are plenty of public lands for people to use.

The News-Review called some subscribers and asked their thoughts on the government shutdown.

“I think it’s a very stupid idea by very stupid politicians who should be removed from office,” Robert Briggs, 70, of Glide said.

Briggs said he thinks President Obama, along with half of Congress, is to blame for the federal government shutdown.

“Democrats and Republicans have been making poor decisions on things lately. They are losing track of what’s important in this country, like jobs,” he said. “We should start a big petition to have them impeached or thrown out of office.”

Briggs has a son and daughter who work for the Forest Service and the BLM, respectively. “I imagine they’re going to be out of work,” he said.

Beth Werner, 55, of Glide said the issue should have been resolved a long time ago.

“It’s ridiculous that states are required to have a budget and balance their books, but our federal leaders can’t do it,” Werner said. “They are all to blame. They make it a partisan issue, but all have their own self-interests.”

Roseburg resident James King said he’s upset with both Democrats and Republicans, but he thinks the Affordable Care Act will cost the country more in the long run than the shutdown.

“I’m just upset with this economy and the way things are going. This used to be a bustling town when I grew up. Everybody was happy and there was a lot more to do,” he said.

• Reporter Garrett Andrews can be reached at 541-957-4218 or gandrews@nrtoday.com. Reporter Jessica Prokop can be reached at 541-957-4209 or jprokop@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Oct 1, 2013 12:41PM Published Oct 2, 2013 06:55PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.