Concessionaires File Lawsuit re Shutdown

Here’s a link to the courthouse news service article on the concessionaire’s lawsuit.

The National Forest Recreation Association and co-plaintiffs American Land & Leisure, Recreation Resource Management, and CLM Services sued the U.S. Forest Service in Federal Court.
They note acerbically that the shutdown of the federal government has cost their employees hundreds of jobs, and that “Congress has stated no intention to vote to restore campground concessioners’ ‘back pay.'”
They claim the Forest Service is “nonsensically asserting that, while recreating and camping in undeveloped areas is fine, recreating and camping in developed campgrounds and recreation areas run by trained, private concessioners who do not receive any federal funds creates a risk to property, public health and safety because the Forest Service has reduced funds.”
The companies say they do not get federal funding: “In fact, plaintiffs pay money to the federal government to operate.”
The Forest Service this month decided to close certain areas in the National Forest System and suspend all concessionaire operations at developed campground and recreation sites nationwide.
The plaintiffs are concessionaires at the sites, operating campgrounds in National Forests across the country. They say their services are crucial for the safety of campers, providing emergency first aid, restrooms and clean drinking water on federal campgrounds. They also repair parking lot potholes, fire hydrants and roads.
Since the shutdown of the federal government has closed campgrounds in federal forests, campers have been forced onto undeveloped areas, despite the companies’ autonomy from the federal government.
“Having people camp at developed campgrounds or recreate in developed areas operated by concessioners reduces the risks to public safety and resource damage,” the groups say.
They claim that “the reduction in Forest Service funding has absolutely no impact on the ability of concessioners to continue to ensure public safety and reduce risk of property damage.”

I continue to wish we could hear the logic for why ski areas are OK but concessionaires aren’t. Still haven’t got a phone call back from the furloughed public affairs folks.

11 Comments

  1. Maybe Obama has a ski vacation planned? Or maybe skiers are all rich liberals? From my time in the industry, I know many are city folks with money, and weirdly Green considering the consumptive aspects of ye olde downhille.

    The thing about the shutdowns, Sharon, is it seems they were blatantly political, to inflict the most possible disruption. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina just went full-flame on Jon Jarvis over NPS’s high speed barricade-a-thon while noting that illegal camping happened for 100 days on other NPS property during the Occupy party last year.
    Jarvis said something about “property damage” as a reason for barricades, but the OWS folks weren’t the best housekeepers, were they?
    And I have to note the immigration rally, with stages and bands, that was okey dokey too. The hypocrisy was expected, but what scotched it for me was the arrest-a-thon that happened later. You know, paddy wagons, zip ties, court dates, Capitol Police wages — the bill for which will fall mostly upon hapless Joe Taxpayer Schmoe. Eight Congs, all Dems for some reason, also got arrested. It’s like they don’t CARE about the fiscal mess, it’s more important to have the political “chop” next time they pander to their special pet interest.
    So yeah, the decisions on what was essential and wasn’t was completely political, and this is Obama’s nation.

    • OK,maybe it’s just me but I’m OK with calling it “the Administration” and noting what they do, but for some reason calling out the Prez by name just reminds me of the all the partisan ..err… malarkey that got us the furlough in the first place. I just don’t want us to get off the topic of “weird things the Administration does in our world” and get involved in all the other things about Administrations. It’s a slippery slope..

  2. Sharon

    You raised the question: “I continue to wish we could hear the logic for why ski areas are OK but concessionaires aren’t”

    “It’s a slippery slope”

    Do you think that the “the furloughed public affairs folks” are going to put their jobs in jeopardy and go against the wishes of the “Prez” and answer your questions and have you unintentionally out them? Did you see the head of the NPS dodge around the questions to that effect poised to him today in a congressional inquiry? What happened is as plain as the nose on my face and a scientific study of similar situations is fully replicated. The wagons have been circled once again. Transparency is just another figment of the Prez’s imagination.

    It would seem that if it was a slippery slope that you didn’t want to go down, you shouldn’t have set us down on the slope.

  3. It’s actually pretty straightforward as to why ski areas stay open and concessionaire run campgrounds close. Ski areas own all of the infrastructure that is located on National Forest lands and as such it is their responsibility under both state and federal regulations to operate, maintain, service, etc. It is their liability as well.

    Concession campgrounds are very different. The infrastructure is owned by the United States, and the concessionaire has a responsibility to operate it under the direction of the Forest Service.

    In other words, the ski area owns the lifts and the lodges, not the Forest Service. The Forest Service owns the picnic tables, water systems and toilets, not the concessionaire.

    When a ski lift fails and someone is injured, it is the ski area that gets sued not the Forest Service. When a campground water system fails, someone gets sick, and sues, it is the Forest Service that get’s sued, not the concessionaire.

    Spinning this up as some sort of conspiracy or politically motivated act by the administration is beyond absurd and childish. Agency leadership either in the NPS or FS clearly make mistakes, and under unique circumstances such as a shutdown, those mistakes get telegraphed into the spotlight and magnified. Was the NPS wrong to barricade some monuments it is responsible for operating, probably yes. Where they wrong for swinging gates on many many parks, probably not. Was the FS wrong for closing campgrounds, and not ski areas, probably not.

    • Thanks Andrew.. all folks need to hear is a plausible rationale, when we know that both are regulated by the fs, and there’s no one around to oversee either one. And I know when they’re furloughed they can’t get the message out.

      • As a former ski area employee, there is a requirement to inspect and approve many items on a checklist on, at least, an annual basis. I tend to think that these inspections occur as close to opening day, as possible. It is an issue of public safety but, I would also think that roadside hazard tree projects are too. I think it is just another example of partisan politics shooting itself in the foot, then enforcing the sharing of the pain.

    • Andrew

      Thanks for the clarification and my apologies for Ting-off on President Obama.

      Re: “leadership either in the NPS or FS clearly make mistakes, and under unique circumstances such as a shutdown, those mistakes get telegraphed into the spotlight and magnified”
      –> Seems like they get magnified pretty badly no matter what they do – seems like we hear a lot of conspiracy theories whenever environmentalists disagrees with anything that the USFS does but, that is okay – thanks for the insight.

  4. Should we be faced with another shutdown, here’s a follow-up to Sharon’s question:
    (“I continue to wish we could hear the logic for why ski areas are OK but concessionaires aren’t. Still haven’t got a phone call back from the furloughed public affairs folks.”)

    “Under the Anti-Deficiency Act . . . furloughed staffers may not perform their official duties on a volunteer basis while on furlough. The recent guidance by the House Administration Committee explains just how broad this prohibition is. For example, a member’s office ‘may not communicate with a furloughed employee about official duties and the furloughed employee may not perform official duties by email or telephone.’ As a way to ensure compliance, the guidance suggests that a member’s office may even require furloughed staffers to turn in their cellphones, laptops and BlackBerrys.

    . . . [T]echnically speaking, violations of the Anti-Deficiency act can be considered crimes, punishable by up to two years in jail.”

    Source: http://blogs.rollcall.com/beltway-insiders/may-staffers-keep-working-while-furloughed-a-question-of-ethics/

    Personnel at concessionaire offices were not subject to these restrictions, thus comments such as the following from Timberline Lodge:

    “Timberline Lodge Open For Business As Usual During Government Shutdown

    There has been some confusion, so we’ll get right to the point. Your visit to Timberline Lodge will not be affected by the current government shutdown. Timberline is operated by a private concessionaire, RLK and Company. Timberline Lodge is a National Historic Landmark, but it is not in a National Park. It is business as usual here folks. Come on up and enjoy!”

    Source: http://www.timberlinelodge.com/timberline-lodge-open-for-business-as-usual-during-government-shutdown/

    Hope this helps!

    Kurt Angersbach / Westernlabs

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