Land managers prepare for government shutdown

CAMP VERDE - It is not something anyone working for the federal government is looking forward to, but the possibility of a shutdown is forcing agencies to plan accordingly.

It happened twice in 1995, once for six days and once for 22 days. And the closer it gets to midnight Eastern Standard Time on Friday, the greater the possibility it will happen again.

"To tell you the truth, it's getting a little too close for comfort," said Coconino National Forest spokesperson Connie Birkland.

Several agencies that manage public lands around the valley are contemplating different scenarios, all of which include furloughs for personnel and closures of public lands.

"We have been told to have a contingency plan in place, but until then it's business as usual," Birkland said. "Right now I don't know all the details or how it will play out. There are still some unanswered questions."

If a the current negotiations between Congress and the President break down, or Congress fails to pass a temporary spending bill, Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well and Tuzigoot will close at the end of the day on Friday.

"We just want to advise the public that we are preparing for all scenarios, including closure. If the shutdown occurs, ordinary business will be extremely curtailed," said Kathy Davis, superintendent for the valley's national monuments.

Davis said any shutdown would also force the cancellation or postponement of any scheduled public events.

The shutdown would also affect access to the Bureau of Land Management's Agua Fria National Monument south of Camp Verde.

According to Department of the Interior Deputy Chief Matt Lee-Ashley, the BLM will close all roads that access public lands under their authority except those that are necessary throughways.

"Limited personnel needed to protect life and property on public lands, such as law enforcement, emergency services and firefighting personnel, will be exempt from the furlough," was the word in a statement from Lee-Ashley.

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