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Shutdown still affects some recreation areas, causing confusion

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ST. GEORGE, Utah - While tourists return to Utah’s five national parks… BLM and US Forest Service offices remain closed by the government shutdown. It’s raising questions about where people can recreate, and what’s still off limits.

Bo Beck is the manager at The Desert Rat in St. George. He says since the shutdown, he’s been helping at least a few people a day navigate which lands are still accessible.

“A lot of Europeans don’t recognize the difference between national and state parks, or federal BLM or Forest Service Lands,” says Beck. “Their questions often times were, to me, Well, do you think they’ll open tomorrow? And I really didn’t have an answer for them.”

But as the shutdown continues, it does become clearer about what remains closed. Federally managed recreation areas, such as Red Cliffs National Conservation Area north of St. George are blocked off, mainly because staff needed to run the facilities and supervise campgrounds aren’t available. But local tourism directors say many areas are still available for public use.

“Even though those offices are closed, the lands are still accessible,” Says St. George Tourism Bureau executive director Roxie Sherwin. “So people can still get out and  enjoy biking or hiking or whatever they would like to do.”

“The public lands are very accessible and usable,” says Beck. “But the BLM has closed anything that might contain say a visitors center or a gate restricting access or a permitted area.”

Local guided tour companies say the BLM closure isn’t affecting them. Todd Goss with Paragon Adventures says the federal agency is honoring their existing permits and have told him to conduct business as usual. Only new permit applications are held up by office closures.

As a general rule, US Forest Service lands that are normally unrestricted remain accessible, but some areas that require special permits, such as the Paria wilderness, or campgrounds, such as Pine Valley, are off limits.

Local visitors bureaus are generally well connected with the access in their areas. Contact information for each of the areas is below.

St. George Visitor’s Bureau:
http://www.atozion.com/

Cedar City Visitor’s Bureau:
http://scenicsouthernutah.com/

Kane County Visitor’s Bureau:
http://www.visitsouthernutah.com/

FAQ from the BLM on Shutdown procedure:
http://www.doi.gov/shutdown/fy2014/upload/BLM-FAQ.pdf