Editor:

I want to express my appreciation for the support and patience from our local communities and partners during the recent partial federal government shutdown. The USDA Forest Service, along with numerous other agencies, were affected by the lapse in federal funding. During the shutdown, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest offices located in Edinburg and Harrisonburg were closed and the majority of employees were furloughed, while some worked without knowing when they would be paid.

Thank you to the local communities and businesses across the Shenandoah Valley that expressed sympathy and offered support for employees impacted by the shutdown.

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests care for nearly 1.8 million acres of land in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky. During the shutdown, although offices were closed, forest lands and many recreation areas and trails remained open for public use.

I am encouraged to hear stories across the forest of visitors caring for their public lands while employees were furloughed, stories of visitors enjoying forest trails, picking up litter and emptying garbage cans. I am proud to know that our local community members are stewards of their public lands.

I ask for your continued patience as we focus on getting our employees back on duty and effectively resume operations. I recognize that the partial shutdown has impacted the important work our agency does on behalf of the American people. We are assessing priorities for the remainder of the year and returning to the work of caring for the land and serving people.

Mary Yonce,

district ranger,

Lee Ranger District

and North River

Ranger District, Edinburg