The Recreation HQ is concerned that OHV-related lawsuits and related management actions could be overlooked victims of the government shutdown.
Sequestration had already reduced the number of Department of Justice attorneys that work on resource and recreation legal issues. There are many unfilled judicial appointments from even before the current belt-tightening further burdened our judicial system. Criminal cases take priority. The shutdown has prevented DOJ lawyers from appearing or even talking to their agency clients. District courts are already been focusing their limited resources toward cases with available lawyers and parties, meaning that cases involving federal issues are all ready losing their spots on the docket.
When the shutdown is presumably resolved, pro-recreation interests will face new challenges, as we are hearing indications that limited resources in DC and the field will affect the degree to which the federal government will strongly defend Forest Service OHV travel management decisions, or be able to address court-ordered remands or other necessary management actions.
To give some perspective, the cases involving the BRC Legal Team include 15 deadlines or hearings between now and the first week of December, including two 9th Circuit arguments. These hearings are in the process of being extended or vacated as the uncertainty develops. When the shutdown is resolved, DOJ lawyers will be scrambling to address the backlog that continues to pile up while they are prohibited from working. The inability to resolve these cases potentially affects not only resolution of long-running cases but on-the-ground recreation options in areas including the Stanislaus, Eldorado, Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Clearwater, Custer, San Juan and Pike and San Isabel National Forests, as well as the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (Glamis).
In short, every day the shutdown continues, OHV-related cases could suffer the long-term consequences of reductions in and redirected priorities for DOJ staff and other federal employees.