Originally published Thursday, January 17, 2019 at 09:12p.m.

Driving out to the national forest parks around Prescott, visitors should not be surprised by the gates, road closures and posted signage apologizing for sites being “unavailable due to a lapse in funding.”

The signs were first noticed Wednesday morning, but when they went up is anyone’s guess because Forest Service personnel aren’t answering phones or emails.

Calls placed to Debbie Maneely, public information officer for Prescott National Forest Service (PNF), played a recorded message stating that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Prescott National Forest (PNF) departments are closed due to lack of federal funding. “The office will be opened once funding is restored.”

Maneely did respond Jan. 17 with a voice message, stating she could not talk about any Forest Service business because of the shutdown. “Hopefully, we’ll get a budget and we can get back to work soon.” She referred calls to the media office in Washington, D.C., but calls did not go through.

An automatic email reply from Maneely also advises people to go to usa.gov, which displays a banner on its website stating “Lapse in Federal Funding — Due to a lapse in funding, the USA.gov website will be available, but not updated.”

Closures in the Prescott area include Thumb Butte Day Use, Granite Basin Recreation Area, Lynx Lake Recreation Area, Mingus Mountain and the Woodchute Wilderness, Groom Creek Area, and Horsethief Basin Recreation Area.

Similar responses to phone calls occurred with the Bureau of Land Management. Delores Garcia, public information officer, had this message on her phone line: “Due to lack of funding by the federal government, I am out of the office. I am not authorized to respond at this time, but will respond to all messages when I return to the office.”

One unfortunate aspect of the shutdown that directly affects Prescott is the cessation of prescribed burns on forestland that is an important part of decreasing catastrophic wildfires. This is the time of year when the weather cooperates with the burning of slash piles.

Michael Orr, chair of the Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface Commission, said Forest Service personnel had been working at the south end of Prescott “doing a ton of work.”

“I guess they had to quit,” Orr said.

The USDA website said some wildland firefighter training has been canceled. During a partial government shutdown, “Forest Service employees whose regular responsibilities include responding to and managing wildland fires will be designated as excepted on-call so they are able to respond when called for duty.”