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DailyTidings.com
  • After furlough ends, federal agencies get back to work

    Parks open, logging ban is lifted as the government shutdown ends
  • Grants Pass resident Gail Yakopatz is mighty relieved that she and her elderly entourage of World War II veterans won't have to storm the barricades.
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  • Grants Pass resident Gail Yakopatz is mighty relieved that she and her elderly entourage of World War II veterans won't have to storm the barricades.
    "This will make it a lot easier for us — we are now back on our normal itinerary," said the president of Honor Flights of Oregon, which flies World War II veterans to visit the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
    The ending late Wednesday of the federal shutdown means all sites the 104-member group planned to visit have reopened. The group was scheduled to fly out of Portland this morning, returning on Sunday.
    "We will be able to see the museums as well as the memorial without any problems," she said Thursday, although noting the group had planned to see the outdoor World War II memorial regardless of the shutdown. There are 50 World War II veterans in the group, including four from Southern Oregon.
    "We were going anyway — this just makes it so much easier for us," she said.
    With the partial shutdown that lasted 16 days now history, roughly 400 permanent employees on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Medford District are back to work, along with their 50 counterparts at Crater Lake National Park and two dozen at Oregon Caves National Monument. There also are hundreds of seasonal employees who work locally for the agencies.
    Both the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM announced Thursday they were lifting a logging ban put in effect during the shutdown. When the furloughs were in place, logging operations on federal land were restricted to hauling out logs already cut and related work.
    On the national forest the staff is getting back to operational mode after the unplanned furlough, officials said.
    "We've got our main interagency office open in Medford, and our ranger district offices are in the process of opening," said forest spokeswoman Virginia Gibbons, adding that all the offices are expected to be open today.
    However, she suggested visitors call before going to a ranger district office to make sure it is open.
    "We're still in the early stages of gearing back up — we're trying to do things in an orderly fashion," she said.
    The partial shutdown may mean some resheduling of meetings and other activities, she said.
    "But we are glad to be back," she said. "This is a mission-oriented organization."
    The BLM's Medford District is also getting into gear, said spokesman Jim Whittington.
    "Trails are open — so are the bathrooms," he said Thursday of the district's recreational facilities. "Our environmental education program at McGregor Park (on the upper Rogue River) will resume Friday with a busload of kids coming."
    Up at Crater Lake National Park, the main gift shop and restaurant at the Rim Village, which are open year round, have reopened. However, the historic Crater Lake Lodge and other facilities operated by a private concessionaire already have closed for the season.
    The road was open only to the Rim Village on Thursday but other roads were expected to be open today, said park spokeswoman Marsha McCabe.
    "We're open and we're looking forward to welcoming Americans back," she said, adding, "This is a beautiful time to see the park."
    Trails were opened at Oregon Caves National Monument with cave tours expected to resume today, said superintendent Vicki Snitzler.
    "Autumn is a particularly special season to enjoy all that the monument has to offer," she said.
    The fall tour schedule at the Oregon Caves will end for the season on Nov. 3. The historic chateau already has closed for the season.
    Reach Mail Tribune reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.
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