The Maroon Bells took a big financial hit from the government shutdown this month. As a result there might be some cutbacks at the Maroon Bells next year. The Forest Service lost revenue because it was unable to collect entrance fees.
Reporter: Scott Fitzwilliams oversees the White River National Forest… and he describes the shutdown as “cantankerous.”
Scott Fitzwilliams: “It was difficult, I mean especially the time of year this came about, I mean, part of fall in the valley is going to the Maroon Bells and having to shut that down and close the bathrooms and facilities.”
Reporter: Not to mention closing the road going up to the Bells to cars and busses. That meant the fee station was closed… and dollars that help pay for the services at the Maroon Bells went uncollected.
Fitzwilliams: “It will probably affect us $20,000 or $30,000 for next year’s operating budget. You know we closed the doors during our most busy times as far as the Maroon Bells as far as the fee program, and we’re not going to be able to make that up.”
Reporter: All told, the result of the shutdown could mean more than ten percent of the Maroon Bells’ annual budget. Fitzwilliams believes the loss will probably have the longest lasting effect on the White River National Forest. Another result of the shutdown is damaged relationships with contractors. At least three companies had to stop logging in the middle of a project… and lost income. Since the government reopened, timber contractors have been able to get up and running again. Forest Service employees are also back to work. Facing a backlog, some employees could need longer hours to catch up. That, says Fitzwilliams, could be a problem. The agency is being cautious with approving overtime. Forest Service managers don’t know how much money they’ll have next year… because current funding only goes through January.
Fitzwilliams: “So we’re being very conservative about spending money without a long term budget.”