Grand County federal workers return to work

Leia Larsen
U.S. Forest Service employee Monte Roberts, left, helps Arin Christensen of Atlanta with the purchase of a Forest Service pass at the Sulphur Ranger District office on Thursday, Oct. 17, in Granby. Local federal employees returned to work on Thursday after Congress passed and President Obama signed a bill that ended the 16-day government shutdown.
Byron Hetzler/ | Sky-Hi News

After more than two weeks of furlough, federal agencies returned to work on Thursday morning, Oct. 17.

In Grand County, it meant offices like the U.S. Forest Service Sulphur Ranger District in Granby and Bureau of Land Management field office in Kremmling turned on their lights and re-opened their doors.

“We’re definitely happy to be back to work,” said public information officer Reid Armstrong at the Sulphur Ranger District.

Local U.S. Forest Service workers were able to keep up with hazardous tree removal contracts and winterizing reservoir docks and equipment. But according to Armstrong, they still have plenty of catch-up work to do. Among their top priorities is moving forward with over 20,000 burn piles throughout the county. Many of those piles are visible on Tunnel Hill near Winter Park.

“There’s sort of a small window with pile burning when we have enough snow, but not too much, and good wind dispersal for air quality,” she said.

The Sulphur Ranger District also hopes to wrap up burning before the Winter Park ski area opens for business.

“We’d hoped for that to already be under way, so that’s our number-one priority,” Armstrong said.

Foresters are also moving forward with closing campgrounds for the season, completing hazardous tree removal and finalizing timber sales. Those sales, recently put up for bid, were eagerly anticipated and received a big response from local lumber businesses and mills. But a final decision was left in limbo when the government shutdown forced federal workers into furlough.

“There’s a process to go through before it’s announced,” Armstrong said. “We’re looking forward to finishing that.”

The BLM field office in Kremmling declined to comment on their re-opening, referring the Sky-Hi News to the national office in Washington, D.C. Representatives with the National Resources Conservation field office in Kremmling were not available for comment at the time of press.

Although also managed by a federal agency, Rocky Mountain National Park re-opened for five days during the furlough after the State of Colorado kicked in funding. The re-opening came in time to capture tourism generated by the Park’s fall colors and Elk rut. The state will be reimbursed by the federal government for operating the park, according to a statement from Gov. Hickenlooper’s office.

Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.

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