While Congress continues snarky rhetoric along party lines over the debt limit, the American people fear how congressional indecision may impact their lives. In the Eastern Sierra, federal agencies have not yet begun to plan for a government shut-down, but they do believe it’s a possibility.
When asked about this issue, Forest Service Public Information Officer Nancy Upham said there is no real planning or talking about a government shut down at this time. Upham does believe that if Congress fails to act on the debt ceiling by August 2nd, impacts will hit government operations.
Even before this latest possible crisis, the federal government delivered mid-summer budget cuts to the Inyo National Forest. Upham said she hopes to release more information on that this week. She did describe the mid-June budget as “significantly lower”. Upham said this will mean closures and reductions in service. The San Francisco Chronicle had reported that as of July 18th the Forest Service stopped leading public tours of the Mono Lake South Tufa area, which is on USFS land.
Upham did say that the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association wants to help with visitor centers under the cutback situation. Upham also said that the Inyo Forest has received no direction from Washington about a potential government shut down next week. Upham did refer us to a Washington, D.C. press contact.
An email from Matthew Herrick of the Department of Agriculture Office of Communications offered apparent rhetoric about the current situation. In response to Sierra Wave’s question about the debt limit vote and impact on government operations, Herrick said this in an email, “As the President has said repeatedly during the past 6 months, there is no alternative to raising the debt limit. The only way to prevent a default crisis and protect America’s creditworthiness is to enact a timely debt limit increase, which we remain confident Congress will do.” Herrick went on to say, “The President believes we will resolve this situation in a timely manner and avoid any disruption in government operations or payments.”
For those who find no comfort in the Department of Agriculture’s confidence in Congress, we placed a call to the Office of Management and Budget for their take on what may happen. We await their response.