Fed shutdown reaches Eagle County offices impacted by congressional budget bungling | VailDaily.com

Fed shutdown reaches Eagle County offices impacted by congressional budget bungling

HAATS Blackhawk helicopters, in Gypsum, will remain grounded until the Beltway budget feuding stops. They will fly searchand rescue missions, but they will not train.

GYPSUM — Even when the federal government has abandoned you, if you get lost or injured in the backcountry, then local National Guard helicopter pilots will still rescue you.

The High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, or HAATS, was open during the government shutdown.

No one flew on Monday, Jan. 22, because the feds took away their gas money. But they still showed up for work.

"As a full-time guard unit, we will maintain operations," said HAATS Commander Lt. Col. Tony Somogyi.

Even when Beltway bickering shutters much of the federal government, HAATS will still do search and rescue missions, if they're asked to. That's called an "accepted mission," Somogyi said.

They cannot order new helicopter parts during a shutdown, but even if one of their birds breaks, then they should be fine … for a while.

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"You can only use what you have on hand. You cannot order any new parts. That's part of what is shut off," Somogyi said.

However …

"We keep an ample supply of parts on hand," he said.

USFS, BLM, ICE

Local offices for the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, the other two high-profile federal agencies in this region, were closed Monday.

Well, the land was open, but the offices were closed.

The BLM diplomatically called it a "lapse of appropriations," adding that BLM roads, trails, campgrounds, boat ramps and recreation sites will remain accessible to visitors, but emergency and rescue services would be limited.

It was not a coincidence that no Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were in District Court on Monday morning, where judges handled a heavy docket. Apparently ICE agents were on furlough, along with whomever handles the agency's website.

"During the lapse in federal funding, this website will not be actively managed," the ICE website said.

"All ICE public affairs officers are out of the office for the duration of the government shutdown," said an automatic response from Carl Rusnok, director of communications for ICE's central region, which includes Colorado. "We are unable to respond to media queries during this period because we are prohibited by law from working. If you still require a response, please resubmit your query upon the government re-opening."

So, that answered that query from this media.

The shutdown started at midnight Friday, Jan. 19. When it continued into Monday, hundreds of thousands of federal workers stayed home across the nation, hitting all federal agencies.

A third of America's 417 national park sites were closed, including Ford's Theatre in Washington, presidential homes and other historic and cultural sites. If they could be locked, then they were, said the National Parks Conservation Association.

After its three-day staredown, Congress voted to keep the government running for three more weeks, through Thursday, Feb. 8, and fund the Children's Health Insurance Program for six years. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also promised an immigration deal by the Feb. 8 deadline.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.