Working through the closed forest

By Zorina Barker, Forum Correspondent


The National Forest is closed.


It is impossible to shut the gates and thus restrict all entry, however like a city park that closes at sunset but has no fence, federal lands are closed to the public at all hours.


The local Forest Service office (on Tillicum Lane) is not unlocking its doors and they “will not be checking their messages until the government reopens” the answering service reports.


The FS manages thousands of acres of harvestable timber in this area, yet there is nobody available to approve timber sales and corridors.


“We are in limbo,” said Pete Larsen, whose local company Larsen Timber Resource Management has been logging with the Forest Service for years.


“This is affecting thousands in the timber industry nationwide and it is certainly going to have a ripple effect. Allen Mill depends on our logs; my crews depend upon steady work. It is a moratorium on all federal lands, for ranchers on BLM land and loggers on FS lands.”


A recent report on National Public Radio said the effects could be felt into next spring. The fall is when mills and log yards stockpile wood to fill the demand that grows in the next building season.


Larry and Sherry Baysinger own and operate SolDuc Valley Packers/Rainforest Horse Rides.


They went through a rigorous process to get approved for a concessions permit to use FS lands for taking people horse-back riding in the local woods.


“Anybody with a concession license is making money for the FS without any financial output from the government. A person can’t even go for a walk in the woods unless you are sure to be on state, county or private land,” Sherry Baysinger said.


Right now, especially when the weather is good, they would be doing three or four rides a week. However, the lands they are permitted to use are all closed.


So what does the Forest Service closure mean to the hiker, the brush picker, the hunter, the mushroom picker?


It means you can’t do any of these activities on federal land.


According to a federal employee at the Federal Information Hotline named Andy “all recreation, including harvesting of plant or animals, is closed until the shutdown is over.”


After stating that Monday, Oct. 7, had been a busy day, he explained that the most popular question was from people wondering about their benefits.


A small sign on the kiosk at Mount Mueller states that the site is closed, the gate at Klahowa is locked and Klahanie is closed.


Yet, there are Forest Service Law Enforcement and Border Patrol vehicles cruising the back roads.


According to the federal lands website, “Law enforcement, fire suppression and other essential services continue.”


For those conscientious users who already have purchased their parking passes or their harvest passes, they are of no use at this time as the shutdown overrides any permits. If camping reservations have been made, the cost of the permits will be refunded.


Yet, the weekend of Oct. 5, the Peninsula Chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen spent several hours of their volunteer time maintaining trails and campgrounds that presently cannot be used legally.


Cate Bendock, the chapter president said, “We’ll be ready to help out if we are needed. We helped put the Littleton Horse Camp in and would hate to see it vandalized or not maintained.”

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