Government's Fall Foliage Hotline Back in Business

October 18, 2013 - 9:46 AM

Foliage Fight

October 1998 file photo, Richmond, Vt. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

(CNSNews.com) – With the partial government shutdown now over, federal services are slowly returning, including the government-operated “Fall Foliage Hotline.”

Run by the U.S. Forest Service, the hotline provides information on where leaves are turning color in the United States.

Byron James, assistant director of communications for the U.S. Forest Service, tells CNSNews.com the hotline relies on representatives from various regions to record a message about leaf colors.

“When a caller connects to the main number (managed by the Washington office) they are prompted to press a particular button to hear about the foliage in an area of their choosing,” James says.

At the time of publication, many of the regional foliage lines had not been updated since October 1. A recording informs the user it is “due to the lapse in federal government funding.”

The Forest Service told CNSNews.com it hopes to have all of the lines operational again by early next week.

The hotline works in conjunction with the “fall colors 2013” website run by the U.S. Forest Service. The website contains a map showing the leaf color progression across the United States and NASA satellite images of foliage.

The Forest Service could not tell CNSNews.com the cost of operating the hotline. “We do not have a separate budget line item for its operation,” James said. “Rather it is part of our overall comms (communications) operations.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. Forest Service requested that various states return federal funds that were to be used for habitat and other forest-related projects.

According to The Associated Press, Forest Chief Thomas Tidwell told governors of those states that sequestration had forced cuts and that his agency “had no alternative” but to ask for the money back.