BEND, OR -- As the federal shutdown reaches record length, Discover Your Forest, the non-profit partner of Deschutes National Forest, has been forced to cancel interpretive snow tours at Mount Bachelor. Executive Director Rika Ayotte says snowshoe tours and the "Ski with a Ranger" program are run by volunteers, but their liability coverage is provided by the federal government and, "Because those volunteers signed volunteer agreements with the Forest Service, they're not able to serve as volunteers during the government shutdown."
Ayotte tells KBND News the programs serve more than 1,000 tourists and 2,000 students each winter, "We have a pretty broad spectrum of curriculum for snow science for local schools. Those kids really do look forward to getting out on their snowshoes and winter only lasts for so long." She adds, "We're really hopeful that the federal government can resume operations and that an agreement can be reached that we can get back to work and back interacting with the public, but until that happens, all public programs will continue to be canceled and school programs will be canceled on an as-needed basis."
She says the longer the shutdown lasts, the bigger impact it will have, locally. "Several hundred people could've really benefited from experiencing these programs, who won't get to do that. And, the longer it continues, the more that number grows. We're in a little bit of a holding pattern, but we're really doing the best we can, and we're confident that when federal funding is restored, we'll be okay."
The event calendar on Discover Your Forest's website is littered with cancellation notices.