ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) - The National Forest Recreation Association and campground management companies sued Uncle Sam, claiming the government shutdown has closed the campgrounds they run even though they do not receive federal funding.
The National Forest Recreation Association and co-plaintiffs American Land & Leisure, Recreation Resource Management, and CLM Services sued the U.S. Forest Service in Federal Court.
They note acerbically that the shutdown of the federal government has cost their employees hundreds of jobs, and that "Congress has stated no intention to vote to restore campground concessioners' 'back pay.'"
They claim the Forest Service is "nonsensically asserting that, while recreating and camping in undeveloped areas is fine, recreating and camping in developed campgrounds and recreation areas run by trained, private concessioners who do not receive any federal funds creates a risk to property, public health and safety because the Forest Service has reduced funds."
The companies say they do not get federal funding: "In fact, plaintiffs pay money to the federal government to operate."
The Forest Service this month decided to close certain areas in the National Forest System and suspend all concessionaire operations at developed campground and recreation sites nationwide.
The plaintiffs are concessionaires at the sites, operating campgrounds in National Forests across the country. They say their services are crucial for the safety of campers, providing emergency first aid, restrooms and clean drinking water on federal campgrounds. They also repair parking lot potholes, fire hydrants and roads.
Since the shutdown of the federal government has closed campgrounds in federal forests, campers have been forced onto undeveloped areas, despite the companies' autonomy from the federal government.
"Having people camp at developed campgrounds or recreate in developed areas operated by concessioners reduces the risks to public safety and resource damage," the groups say.
They claim that "the reduction in Forest Service funding has absolutely no impact on the ability of concessioners to continue to ensure public safety and reduce risk of property damage."
That's not the only reason the campground managers want Uncle Sam to reopen campgrounds.
"In addition to the harm to the public safety and risk of damage to property and resources, the decision to close privately funded campground concession operations has resulted in the loss of hundreds of jobs and revenues that will never be recovered. Congress has stated no intention to vote to restore campground concessioners' 'back pay,'" states the complaint.
The groups say the decision to shut down the campgrounds was nonsensical and unreasonable. They want a declaration that the campground shutdown is an abuse of discretion and contrary to law. They want their camps immediately reopened, and attorneys' fees.
They are represented by Kevin Garden.
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