USFS reduces staff, closes campgrounds

(Press release in its entirety from the Inyo National Forest and Public Information Officer Nancy Upham)

Inyo National Forest

Inyo National Forest

The Inyo National Forest is having to take some drastic measures to balance their budget this fiscal year, and in unprecedented actions is closing some campgrounds and reducing services and interpretive programs at visitor centers in the middle of the summer, according to Forest Supervisor Ed Armenta.

This year all of the national forests received their budgets much later than normal, with the Inyo National Forest receiving a final budget on June 15.  The final budget was significantly lower than what had been projected, particularly in the areas of recreation and wilderness.

For the past month Inyo National Forest leadership has struggled with how to balance their budget and they have been working with many of their partners in an attempt to maintain as high a level of public service and resource protection as possible.  Many partners, including the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association, Friends of the Inyo, the Town of Mammoth Lakes, and the National Park Service, have stepped up to help, but even all that assistance can only go so far.

Over the past couple of weeks, in an attempt to reduce costs, the Forest Service has reduced staff by seven temporary employees who had been hired for the summer, has moved a couple of employees to grant funded programs, and has not filled several vacancies that had been slated to be filled, including the key staff positions of Forest Recreation Officer and Forest Resource Officer.

In line with the reduction in staff capabilities and to further reduce costs, the following campgrounds have been closed for the summer:  Upper Deadman, Lower Deadman, Hartley Springs and Obsidian Group Camp.

As of Sunday, July 31, reductions in hours and services at Visitor Centers, from north to south, will be in effect until further notice:

Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center – Open daily 8-5, but no permits will be available from 12-1 (including wilderness permits and fuelwood permits).  All scheduled Patio Interpretive Talks have been cancelled, except for the Mono Lake Committee Restoration Talks on Wednesdays)   An earlier seasonal closure date for the visitor center is currently being discussed.

South Tufa – 1:00 daily interpretive tours have been cancelled (the Tufa State Natural Reserve and the Mono Lake Committee are still offering their tours)

Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center – Open daily 8-5, but no permits will be available from 12-1 (including wilderness permits and fuelwood permits)

White Mountain Ranger Station and Public Lands Information Center – Open daily 8-5.  Closed 12-1.

Schulman Grove Visitor Center – Open daily 1-5 with limited staffing.  Scheduled Interpretive Programs have been cancelled.

InterAgency Visitor Center – Open daily 8-4:30.   Wilderness Permits will no longer be available for pick-up between 4:30 and 6 pm
Wilderness permits are still required for all over-night backpacking trips into the Hoover, Ansel Adams, John Muir and Golden Trout Wildernesses, and for all over-night and day-use trips into the Mt. Whitney Zone.  The only issuance change is the availability of permits at the visitor centers as outlined above.  Because this does reflect a significant change in available hours for picking up permits, all wilderness users are asked to plan ahead to pick up their permits by closing time, or plan for early the next morning.

Forest Supervisor Ed Armenta would like to extend his apologies for any inconvenience these closures and reductions in service will cause, especially right in the middle of the summer season.

“Attempting to balance our budget this year has really been a challenge and we are certainly anticipating further budget cuts in fiscal year 2012 as our nation grapples with the federal deficit,” Armenta said.  “I am thankful for all of our partners as they have stepped up to assist us in serving the public and protecting the special resources of the Eastern Sierra.  It will be even more important as we move into the future to continue to work together, exploring options and leveraging resources, to provide the highest level of service to the public that we are financially and physically capable of.”

For more information please call Public Affairs Officer Nancy Upham at 760-873-2427.


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20 Responses to USFS reduces staff, closes campgrounds

  1. Rob July 29, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    The only reason they closed campgrounds is to punish the public in hopes of getting support.

  2. LP July 29, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

    Let’s not cut and trim the fat from the meat. Let’s try to raise the ire of the people to cry out by making inconsequential monetary cuts that effect them so that the Behemoth can continue to be fed. Or is that, ‘Fed’?

    Time to put the Behemoth on a diet.

    • upthecreek August 1, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

      what ever happened to “For the people By the People”
      The government Beast is the problem for sure…

  3. Dave July 29, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    This is unfortunate news w/ no easy answers. I fear that “budget cuts” are just going to continue eroding away all of our great destinations, resources and management of those resources.

    Read also that Mono Lake areas are closing down, too.

    It’s tough for many right now, but when we start shutting down our wonderful destinations here along the Eastside – destinations that inspire, refresh and entertain a great number of visitors that spend $$$$ – we’re in big trouble.

  4. bobbie lee swagger July 29, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    yes , sacrifices must be made so WE can continue spending $1-to-$2 billion a week (!) so Iraqis, Afghans and Libyans can camp in their national parks and have their hieroglyphics and flora / fauna interpreted .

    madness .

  5. Too Many Feds July 29, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    They simply need to cut all the usless bureaucrats that sit around all day and think up rules on why the people cannot enjoy their public lands. The National Park Service is even worse.

    Cut two worthless paper pushing bureaucrats and hire ten temporary employees to keep the campgrounds open.

    Rob nailed it big time. They are going to punish the people to keep the fat that rose to the top in place.

  6. Wildman July 29, 2011 at 10:39 pm #

    Yeah….that’s the ticket….brilliant deductions. “They” want to punish us “They” just sit around all day trying to find ways to put you down by keep you off “your” land. Where you guys come up with this stuff. Has one of you taken the time to drive over and talk with FS folks
    and see what’s really going on?

    The heck with the facts….your elected officials in Congress(the ones you voted for) have once again not given the Forest Service the budgets they need to just keep things status quo. There is less money this year for fighting fire across the country than there was five years ago and costs haven’t gone down. The Forest I live in just had their salaries budget cut 40% this year and the layoffs have decimated positions that were not fat but essential for the function of any forest like recreation programs and repairs of Forest facilities. When the Forest roads that lead to the wild trout fishing in our area are washed out….they won’t get repaired anytime soon. They laid off the only heavy equipment operator.

    When I read the rote responses from the usual players, I wonder what they expect the Forest management to do? From what I’ve seen they have done what they have to do given the circumstances and will have to do even more next year when Congress gets done bollixing up the whole budget mess. If you don’t like these circumstances….you’re gonna hate next year.

    • Kilgore Trout July 31, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

      Here’s the solution to the Forest Service Budget problems: First look at the organization and identify the most expensive position. Then cut that position and put that salary into field going temporary employees and campgrounds. If that doesn’t do it take your next most expensive position and cut that one. Then put that money into the campground program. Keep doing the same thing until the budget is balanced and the campground program is fully staffed with people who work outdoors instead of office cubicles.

      • Rob August 1, 2011 at 9:38 am #

        I thought all the campgrounds were run by host?

        • Harry August 1, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

          Many campgrounds are cared for by hosts who are paid by the contractor who won in a USFS biding process and received a contract for a number of years. Some contractors do a much better job than others, but the system appears to be working for the public and the contractor. Being a campground host can be fun, it does require work – cleaning toilets, picking up trash, making sure that campers are registered, etc. It can also be stressful, not all campers are happy campers, because of this and an over abundance of paperwork.

  7. upthecreek July 30, 2011 at 10:18 pm #

    Sign of the times… for a Bunkrupt Out of Control Government

  8. BOLTS July 31, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

    funny thing. This weekend we were camping in the hartley springs campground. the forest service came by and told us to leave and that the campground was being closed. All of you dont know the campgrounds they are closing are all free. the only thing they do is supply the tp for the bathrooms.

    • upthecreek August 1, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

      it all goes back to Rob’s comment

      “Punish the sheeple” ..then they can raise the taxes.

      Our government is “out of Control”

      tic, tic tic

    • HERM K August 2, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

      I / we were planning to go to the Obsidian Flats group campsite. There are pit toilets, that need to be pumped out, and tp replaced. How much does this save by closing?
      I just don’t get it!!!!

  9. hisierragal August 1, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    It is interesting that they have made no attempt to obtain volunteers to maintain these sites. I think there is a great lesson to be learned from a place like Saline Valley where time and supplies are donated by the people who use the area.

    • LP August 1, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

      Their volunteers are currently occupied with putting up road closure signs on roads that have been in existence as long as the two counties..

      • upthecreek August 2, 2011 at 9:00 am #

        Rob is correct..”PUNISH the Sheeple”

        The government Beast at it’s best

  10. HH August 1, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    Go ahead and close them. That’s what bolt cutters are for and, with reduced staff, how often will they get patrolled to find you out?

  11. Wayne Deja August 2, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    HH….Good point there….You could cut the bolt,or chain link,probably have the whole campground to yourself…and if Law Enforcement came by,just say the gate was open when you drove up.All they could do is tell you to leave.

  12. HERM K August 13, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    We just got back from 5 nites at Fallen Leaf lake campgrounds. This is another camping area run by USFS. Many many Hosts – Staff – Workers – Site checkers – etc. The sad part was that people had about 10 or 11 in a 6 person campsite, and when I asked the workers why this was allowed? Answer “we will keep our eye on them”. Well Keeping you eye on them is not what is needed. You have rules BLACK & WHITE 6 people per campsite. Well when do YOU follow the rules USFS???

    Also on that same loop the Bathrooms trash was taked out twice. That was great, exscept that the toilets were a real mess near sites 155.


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