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During partial government shutdown, skeleton crews staffing local BLM offices

 Posted: 3:10 PM October 15, 2013

The 28 cows moseying onto the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument last week obviously didn't know about the partial federal government shutdown.

But the bovine intrusion into an area closed to cattle grazing reflects the challenges facing the skeletal crews that are now staffing the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Medford District, where the monument is located, as well as the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

"For us to respond is a little bit of a challenge but I've notified our law enforcement," said John Gerritsma, field manager for the BLM's Ashland Resource Area.

"We don't have our full resources to deal with this thing," he added, noting that having cattle wander into the monument was a periodic problem before the shutdown. Both the BLM and the Mail Tribune received calls reporting the latest cattle problem, this time in the Jenny Creek drainage in the monument, which is in the mountains just east of Ashland.

The shutdown has furloughed all but a few of employees on the BLM district and the national forest. Before the shutdown, there were roughly 400 permanent employees and 170 seasonal employees on the local district and national forests.

But only those whose jobs were deemed to be essential, including law enforcement personnel, are permitted to work during the shutdown, officials said.

"We've had cows trespassing all summer long — we've been out there a number of times because of this issue," he said, noting that BLM law enforcement officers are investigating the latest incident.

The incident reflects the issues facing the dramatically reduced staff, he said.

"It's too bad," he said of the shutdown. "With this beautiful fall weather, we could have been doing a lot of things out in the woods."

— Paul Fattig

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