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Unable to close a forest, ANF staff changes ‘daily’

Times Observer file photo, edited by Kate Cataldo Allegheny National Forest offices remain open in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

Allegheny National Forest offices remain open in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis but operations are looking a little different.

“Currently, the Allegheny National Forest remains focused on the safety and well-being of our employees,” Christopher Warner, the ANF’s public affairs office said, “and the public we serve across the four county area of Pennsylvania.”

Warner said that “missing-critical work” such as “suppressing wildfires, law enforcement and other public service responsibilities will continue within appropriate risk management strategies.”

Additionally, current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance and “local health and safety guidelines,” according to Warner, will shape how the ANF operates during this crisis.

“At this time, the Forest Service continues to remain open and operational where appropriate,” Warner said, “and we are committed to the continuity of our mission.”

He did explain though that “teleworking has been maximized” in “areas of community spread.

“Although, the Forest continues to remain open and operational for the continuity of our mission, we are practicing social distancing,” Warner said.

Just how many employees are working remotely?

“It is hard to give an exact number because it changes daily based on mission requirements and daily staffing needs,” Warner said.

“We are working to exercise our technology capabilities where possible to ensure connection and service to the public.”

Warner asked anyone with questions to contact their local ranger district office.

Though the offices remain open, some services have gone digital.

“Currently, we are offering virtual services for passes and permits through the phone, email or mail,” Warner said.

A statement from the ANF on that changes notes that the “permit or pass will be mailed back to you as soon as it is processed” so a “good return address” is needed.

The following permit types will be available in this capacity:

ATV/UTV Annual Permits (send a check for $35, mail proof of registration, and insurance)

Annual Day Use Pass (send a check for $55 and license plate information — state and plate number)

Firewood Permits (print and fill out the application form (found online at www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE–DOCUMENTS/stelprd3836392.pdf) and send check with application to the Supervisors Office).

Annual Senior Pass, Lifetime Senior Pass, and America the Beautiful can be purchased online at https://store.usgs.gov/pass.

Permits must be paid for with checks or money orders to the “USDA Forest Service” as no cash will be accepted.

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