Latest from The Spokesman-Review
Add the investigation of a Spokane man accused of mailing letters laced with ricin to various government agencies to the list of casualties from the 16-day federal government shutdown last month.
Matthew Buquet, 38, has been indicted on federal charges alleging he sent mailings in May containing the castor bean-based poison to President Barack Obama and a federal judge. Subsequent letters to a post office and Fairchild Air Force Base were also discovered by the FBI, but were not mentioned in a superseding indictment in the case filed in June.
No one was harmed by the mailings. The letter sent to Obama allegedly read, "We have a bomb placed, we are going to kill you! Hezbollah," referring to the militant group formed by members of the Shiite sect of Islam.
The trial has been delayed by the recusal of U.S. District Court Judge Lonny Suko, who is a colleague of the intended target of one of the alleged mailings, as well as Buquet's request to have an expert witness examine the substance that was included in the packages. The alleged toxin is being housed at a federal government lab whose workers were the target of furloughs during last month's government shutdown, according to a filing by Buquet earlier this month.
No delays in the anticipated May 2014 trial date have yet been announced.
PUBLIC LANDS — Glacier National Park in Montana is open and welcoming visitors today after a 16-day federal government shutdown that closed all national parks across the country.
At Glacier, approximately 250 park employees were furloughed during the shutdown while 20-30 employees continued to work during the shutdown to manage the park closure and provide for protection of federal lands, waterways, buildings, equipment and other property owned within park.
The park’s website and social media sites were reactivated today and barricades at park entrances and throughout the park were removed.
Park road crews began monitoring roads, including conducting a sweep of the Going-to-the-Sun Road to clean debris/rocks from the road. When the road is clear of debris, public access will be available to Big Bend through Sunday, Oct. 20.
Apgar, Bowman Lake, Kintla Lake, Quartz Creek and St. Mary Campgrounds are open to primitive camping.
The Apgar Visitor Center is open every weekend, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Info: 406-888-7800.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, joined 86 of her GOP colleagues in the House of Representatives on Wednesday night voting to end a partial government shutdown that lasted 16 days.
In a statement following the vote, the congresswoman and chair of the House Republican Conference continued attacks on the Affordable Care Act, the nation's health care overhaul that launched its online marketplaces the same day the federal government shuttered most of its doors.
"House Republicans have done everything possible to protect the American people from the arbitrary regulations and unnecessary costs of the President’s health care law," McMorris Rodgers said in her prepared remarks.
In the early days of the shutdown, House Republicans were calling for a year delay of the requirement for individuals to sign up for the exchanges after President Barack Obama said employers would be granted such a reprieve while the kinks were worked out in the marketplaces. That demand was one of many that Republicans - facing growing opposition among the American people, according to polls cited in a Slate report - were forced to drop as the shutdown dragged on.
"We did not accomplish everything we hoped," McMorris Rodgers said in her statement. She continued, however, with a tone of hope that some of the concessions sought by Republicans on spending might yet be attained.
"In the end, the Senate agreed to come to the table and start to talk," McMorris Rodgers said.
Those talks will take the form of a budget conference - requested multiple times throughout the summer by Senate Budget Committee chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. - that must reconcile by Dec. 13 massive differences between budget resolutions passed by each chamber earlier this year. That timeframe was included in the bill passed Wednesday night.
To read McMorris Rodgers' entire statement, click here to go inside the blog.
UPDATED 10-17-13 at 9:15 a.m.
FISHING — A deal that ended the federal government shutdown tonight is reopening national wildlife refuges and parks sometime on Thursday.
Here is a statement issued Thursday morning from Superintendent Foster:
“We are proud to be a part of this area and are happy to welcome visitors back to the park. We express gratitude to the public as there are great people in this area that have displayed understanding and respect during this difficult time.”
Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area has a significant effect on the local economy. Together, the economic impacts from visitor spending, federal jobs created, and jobs created in the local market supporting local tourism are estimated to be over $40 million a year generated in the communities around Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area. The economic impact of closing Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area for 16 days has been extremely difficult on local communities, businesses, neighbors, and park partners. We look forward to working with you on ways to lessen that impact.
PUBLIC LANDS — As the federal government shutdown advances to Day 11, I was buoyed by this headline and story today:
Utah loans federal gov't $1.7-million to open 5 national parks
On Saturday, the five national parks in Utah, as well as Natural Bridges, Glen Canyon and Cedar Breaks national monuments, will reopen after the state signed an agreement to loan $1.7-million to the federal government, enough to keep them open for 10 days.
But we can't get our hopes too high in Washington — where we're not even adequatley funding our STATE parks.
Maybe a caffeine high will be our salvation:
Starbucks launches petition drive to get government open again
On Friday, petitions seeking the reopening of the federal government will be available at all 11,000 Starbucks shops in the United States.
Although many people and businesses are suffering this week in all walks of life, my outdoors column on Thursday highlighted some high prices recreationists are paying for the budget impasse in Washington, D.C. Here's a summary as we head into the weekend:
All 401 national parks are closed, including Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area and the public boat launches for the Columbia River Reservoir. Note: Free boat launching is available at Two Rivers Marina, owned by the Spokane Tribe.
National Wildlife Refuges are closed. That means hunters with special elk permits for Turnbull Wildlife Refuge are out of luck, waterfowl hunter who would be using blinds at Columbia and Kootenai national wildlife refuges and locked out and fishermen who would by catching trout at Bayley and McDowell lakes are prohibited from entering the refuge until the shutdown is over.
Forest Service offices are closed, which means outfitters can't get permits for their seasonal activities and neither can woodcutters, all of whom are on a deadline delivered by the seasons regardless of what goes on in Washington, D.C.
Hunters are finding campgrounds closed as they head into the opening of deer and elk seasons.
Anglers are finding streamflow information on U.S. Geological Survey water websites and fish passage numbers from the Corps of Engineeers are not always up to date.
Hikers trying to finish the months they've devoted to completing the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail are being blocked at the national park boundaries, such as at North Cascades National Park, and told they have to stop or re-route.
Other stories to ponder as the arrogancen in D.C. continues:
Shutdown halts logging project in Idaho, puts sawmill in peril
Brad Jensen, the owner of Jensen Lumber Co., the sawmill in Ovid, is just one of a number of timber contractors who were told to stop logging in Idaho because of the federal government shutdown, and Jensen said the cessation of the work puts his entire business at risk.
Wyoming national forest sends its concessionaires packing
Grand Teton National Forest had kept its concessionaire-operated facilities operating despite the Oct. 1 government shutdown, but they were told to pack up and leave as the shutdown continued, which means Granite Hot Springs in the Wyoming forest closes today.
National wildlife refuges off-limits to hunters as federal shutdown continues
Upland bird hunters in South Dakota, duck hunters in Montana and antelope hunters in Colorado won't be able to hunt on national wildlife refuges this weekend as seasons open but the federal government remains closed.
Montana governor says state won't pay to open national parks
Gov. Steve Bullock said he would not use state funds to open state parks as he believes the federal government should re-open it its entirety, including the payment of death benefits to members of military families who lost loved ones.
Jon Stewart jabs President Obama and Republicans for their pronouncements and theatrics on the shutdown.
PUBLIC LANDS — My outdoors column today highlights some personal stories of individual recreationists impacted in a big way by the continuing government shutdown that's closed federal services and some federal lands since Oct. 1.
Here are more details about some of the overall costs:
Report tracks shutdown's costs to national parks
A report issued by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees said that the federal government's shutdown that closed national parks and monuments has cost the U.S. economy $750 million in the first ten days, with Yellowstone National Park representing $9,452,054 of that loss; Glacier National Park $3,076,712; and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where visitors travel in October to view the eye-popping fall foliage, has lost $23 million.
Shutdown throttles businesses in Utah community near Zion NP
October is usually a busy time of year for Springdale, as tourists stop in the Utah town on their way to or from Zion National Park, but the shutdown has left the community's streets quiet, although the IMAX theater in town, which is now showing documentaries about the park, which is, for now, the only way to experience the park.
—Salt Lake Tribune
Utah governor offers to loan Interior Dept. money to open national parks
Gov. Gary Herbert said he talked with Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell on Wednesday and offered to loan the federal government the necessary money to get national parks and monuments in the Beehive State open again, and he said that his offer has precedent, as Arizona loaned the federal government money during the 1996 shutdown to keep the Grand Canyon open.
Time Magazine is reporting Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, has been selected by House Speaker John Boehner to negotiate Thursday with President Barack Obama on the partial federal government shutdown.
Obama originally invited all members of the House of Representatives to 1600 W. Pennsylvania Ave. to discuss funding the federal government. Boehner elected to send 18 representatives, including members of House leadership and committee chairs, instead.
A spokeswoman for McMorris Rodgers confirmed on Wednesday afternoon her planned attendance at the meeting.
The full Time listing of attendees:
Rep. Eric Cantor (Virginia)
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (California)
McMorris Rodgers (Washington)
Rep. Greg Walden (Oregon)
Rep. James Lankford (Oklahoma)
Rep. Lynn Jenkins (Kansas)
Rep. Virginia Foxx (North Carolina)
Rep. Steve Southerland (Florida)
Rep. Ann Wagner (Missouri)
Rep. Peter Roskam (Illinois)
Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas)
Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisconsin)
Rep. Dave Camp (Michigan)
Rep. Fred Upton (Michigan)
Rep. Hal Rogers (Kentucky)
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas)
Rep. Buck McKeon (California)
House Democrats are meeting with Obama today. Boehner said Tuesday a phone call with the president yielded "a crack" in the frigid impasse that has kept portions of the federal government on shutdown since Oct. 1, but it wasn't enough to stoke his optimism.
So some of your favorite government websites are shut down, such as the U.S. International Trade Commission (oh noes! Not the US ITC! How else am I supposed to search the current Harmonized Tariff Schedule?)
I snarkily replied that it was "a completely nonsensical (from a technical perspective) act", and I freely admit it that I was mistaken. In fact, there were some very sensical arguments made, re: IT staff support and/or the lack of it.
However, I have found a definitive statement about which federal websites would remain operational during an "appropriation lapse" in an official Whitehouse memo which states:
This was a pretty accurate, although not comprehensive, list. It was much better than the over-the-top music video segment on the shutdown featuring Miley Cyrus as Michelle Bachmann.
(Note: This clip comes from the NBC website, so it contains a very long commercial at the beginning. Sorry, but the network apparently has to pay for its videos somehow…)
NATIONAL PARKS — They waited years to draw a permit and planned for months for their big float down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon — one of the greatest whitewater trips in the world.
BOATING — The trout are getting break at Lake Roosevelt as the public boat launches continue to be closed by the National Park Service.
“We’ve been given direction for the duration of the shutdown that all National Park Service facilities are closed for visitor recreation activities,” said Dan Foster, Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area superintendent in Grand Coulee.
He said today that the boat launch areas will continue to be barricaded until Congress resolves the federal government shutdown.
“I don’t blame people for wanting to go boating on the lake. I know the fishing has been good and this weekend especially is supposed to be really nice.
“But the closures are part of the direction we’ve been given, and as superintendent, I have no latitude for changes.”
FISHING — Online posting of fish counts over dams on the Columbia and Snake river is being delayed for some dams because of the federal shutdown.
The counts are keenly watched by anglers this time of year as they monitor salmon and steelhead movements during the upstream migrations.
The Fish Passage Center has been posting the counts as soon as it gets them through channels dealing with the shut-down U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Spokane activists upset about the federal government shutdown that began Tuesday are taking a page from Martin Luther.
Fliers from the left-leaning organization MoveOn.org were plastered on the walls outside the Congressional offices of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., earlier this week, seen in images posted on Twitter by a user who gave her name as "Erica." The sign on Murray's office, offering congratulations for a job well done, remained posted on her office door Wednesday morning, near a sign indicating the office would be closed for the duration of the shutdown.
The signs blame the right-wing tea party group for causing the first federal government shutdown since the mid-1990s, threatening services from unemployment check processing to low-income nutritional assistance as well as shutting down thousands of National Park sites throughout the country. House Republicans pushed a measure Tuesday evening that would reopen the parks and ensure veterans receive benefits during the shutdown, but the measure - sponsored by Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson - failed to receive the 2/3 majority needed for passage.
Murray took to the Senate floor Tuesday night to condemn House Republicans for "holding our economy hostage" by refusing to pass a funding resolution without concessions to delay the Affordable Care Act.
"To be clear, this shutdown would be over immediately if Speaker Boehner would simply allow both Democrats and Republicans in the House to vote on the bill the Senate has passed multiple times to continue funding the government. But to this point, Republican leaders have chosen shutdown over sanity and politics over the many people who will be impacted by shuttering the government," Murray said in a statement.
But House Republican leadership, including McMorris Rodgers, have accused the Senate of refusing to come to conference on their funding bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Obama have stated they have no intention of entertaining any proposals that affect health care in any way.
Democratic state Rep. Shirley Ringo says Idaho GOP Congressman Raul Labrador is among a group “holding the country hostage to serve their extreme agenda” by refusing to fund the government without delaying Obamacare. Labrador counters that the House Republicans proposal to delay the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate by a year is “very reasonable” and calls Tuesday’s partial closure of the federal government “The Obama Shutdown”/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.
- Labrador tweets that he's going to discuss the shutdown on two national TV programs tonight.
Question: Why are the national media so interested in Labrador?
BOATING — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Walla Walla District has announced that while some of its campgrounds and other facilities will be temporarily closed during the federal government shutdown, many other boat launches and sites will remain open if they're supported by local partner groups.
Sites NOT AFFECTED by the shutdown on the Clearwater and Snake rivers include:
Dworshak State Park, Ice Harbor Marina, Boyer Park, Chief Looking Glass Park, Gateway Park, Hells Canyon Resort, Clearwater Park, Clearwater North/Lewiston, Chief Timothy Park, Wawawai Park, Lyons Ferry Marina, Lucky Peak State Park.
Sites NOT AFFECTED in the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla areas include:
Two Rivers Park, Columbia Park, McNary Yacht Club, Hat Rock State Park, Pasco Boat Basin, Chiawana Park, Columbia Park West, Duportail Boat Launch, Sacajawea State Park, Walla Walla Yacht Club.
Note to salmon/steelhead anglers on the Hanford Reach of the Columbia:
The White Bluffs boat ramp in the Hanford Reach National Monument apparently has been closed by the government shutdown, forcing more anglers to pack into the state-managed launch areas at Ringold and Vernita Bridge.
Read on for the just-issued media release with details from the Corps of Engineers.
PUBLIC LANDS — While national forest lands are still accessible during the federal government shutdown, facilities are not, including a twist I had not thought about in my previous posts:
"One addendum to your blog about facilities affected by the gov't shutdown," writes Aaron Thiessen of Spokane:"Forest Service (and other federal) rentals are closed, too.
"I just got a call that our reservation for this weekend at Snyder Guard Station has been canceled until further notice."
UPDATED 1:05 p.m.
BOATING — The hot fishing for rainbow trout that's been reported in recent weeks at Lake Roosevelt might cool off for lack of anglers.
This includes campgrounds, marinas, boat launches and concessions operations, the supervisor's office said today.
- Even the national park web pages are down!
Park Service officials just confirmed that they will be putting up barricades at the entrances of campgrounds and boat launches.
There are no state-managed access sites on the 125-mile long reservoir.
Read on for more details in a press release issued by the Lake Roosevelt NRA at 1 p.m. today:
HUNTING — Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge officials are hoping Congress sorts out its issues, passes a budget and reverses the government shutdown that went into effect today.
Refuge manager Dan Matiatos told state wildlife officials that if the shutdown continues through the weekend, hunters with special elk controlled-hunt permits will not be allowed on the refuge.
Refuge staff pans to contact affected hunters beginning tomorrow, but they're holding off as long as possible to see if things get sorted out today. Washington muzzleloader elk hunts open Saturday.
Following is a press release just issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding area refuges:
Cheney, WA - The Federal Government will be closed as current funding expired on September 30, 2013. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is very much aware that any lapse in appropriations imposes hardships on those we serve. Due to this event, the Turnbull and Inland Northwest National Wildlife Refuge Complex office will be closed to the public.
For programs experiencing a lapse in appropriated funding, only limited functions would continue, such as those necessary to respond to emergencies and to protect human life or property. While a lapse in appropriations remains in effect, public access to Service properties will be prohibited and fish and wildlife management activities and public programs will be cancelled. All Refuge field trips and school programs, hunts, and public access will be canceled during the shutdown.
Additional information is available at DOI.gov/shutdown and oneINTERIOR.gov, as well as at OPM.gov, which will contain information about the government’s operating status on Tuesday, October 1, and the days following.
Item: Government shutdown begins over health care feud/Associated Press
More Info: Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown Tuesday as a protracted dispute over President Barack Obama’s signature health care law reached a boiling point, forcing some 800,000 federal workers off the job. Obama readied a midday statement to the nation as Democrats and Republicans maintained a blame-each-other duel on Capitol Hill. Even as Obama prepared to meet with citizens signing up for his health care program and then make a lunch-hour speech in the Rose Garden, the White House cut back to a skeletal staff. The U.S. Capitol canceled tours not personally led by Congress members.
Question: How long do you think the Republicans and Democrats are going to play chicken with the government shutdown?
1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador announced today that he is co-sponsoring a resolution introduced today by Rep. Tom Graves, R-Georgia, to avert a government shutdown Oct. 1 only if President Obama's health care law is both de-funded and its individual mandate to purchase insurance delayed for a year. “If there’s any single issue that can unite House Republicans and has the strong support of the American people, it’s getting rid of ObamaCare,” Labrador declared/Betsy Russell, Eye on Boise. More here.
Question: Do you support/oppose the bill that Raul Labrador is co-sponsoring?
OLYMPIA — Despite a slightly better economic forecast and expectations of a budget deal among legislators, Gov. Jay Inslee's office has prepared a list of state services that would and wouldn't be available July 1 if a budget isn't passed.
The preliminary list divides agencies into three categories: No shutdown; partial shutdown and complete shutdown. Among those staying open are the state colleges and universities, the courts and those that receive money from something other than the operating budget, such as the Transportation Department, Innovate Washington, Financial Institutions, Treasurer and Traffic Safety Commission.
Some smaller agencies — the Arts Commission, Public Disclosure Commission, Eastern Historical Society, Liquor Control Board, Human Rights Commission and Indian Affairs — would be among those facing complete shutdown, as would the state Parks.
Partial shutdown is more complicated, but it includes many of the big agencies like Departments of Social and Health Services, Health, Military, Natural Resources, Corrections and State Patrol. But no, the last two don't mean the prisons doors would be thrown open or no one would be writing tickets on I-90.
For a look at the list, click here.