While operations at Idaho National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy site west of Idaho Falls aren’t expected to be affected by a government shutdown, people who are visiting national parks or have business with the U.S. Forest Service might notice.
According to the Associated Press, the House has adjourned without a deal on spending, virtually guaranteeing a partial government shutdown at midnight Friday.
Senators are also being told there will be no further votes Friday as talks continue.
Idaho has about 13,300 federal jobs, accounting for about $877 million in total wages, according to the Idaho Press. INL and Fluor Idaho, the contractor that runs the Idaho Cleanup Project, only keep essential functions staffed and running during the holidays. A shutdown wouldn’t lead to immediate changes for them, since their budgets were already signed into law in September as part of another spending bill.
“It would have minimal impact to INL,” said INL spokeswoman Sarah Neumann. “We will continue to operate business as usual.”
“Fluor Idaho anticipates no impact to our cleanup operations as a result of a government shutdown,” said Fluor spokesman Erik Simpson.
If there is a furlough, the Forest Service expects to get instructions to close its doors when its funding gets cut off, said Mel Bolling, forest supervisor for the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Since the weekend and then Christmas are coming up, staffing is lower than normal now anyway.
“Oftentimes folks are already away from work this time of year,” Bolling said.
The most immediate impact, Bolling said, would be that since offices will close, people won’t be able to stop in for things like wood permits or to get questions answered. The phones also would be off, replaced with a recorded message saying the agency is closed due to a lapse in funding.
“There’s usually just a minimum amount of essential personnel,” Bolling said.
Bolling would stay at work, as would the district rangers who oversee the smaller offices in eastern Idaho, taking care of things such as making sure the buildings and vehicles are secure, the horses and mules fed and employees kept informed about the furlough. Operations such as timber sales or managing ski areas likely won’t be affected, Bolling said, since they are run by outside contractors.
“We’re usually given some directions associated with maintaining operations,” he said.
Craters of the Moon would remain open for public access, but the visitors center would be closed and most rangers and employees will not be working. A few workers would be allowed to keep working to make sure the pipes don’t freeze and other infrastructure works.
Craters will be closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Day regardless of the shutdown. Last December had around 100 visitors per day at the park, and visitors can still use the roads into the park if they’re clear but will have few staff members to rely on.
“It will be ‘Enter at your own risk’ and visitors should know that typical support services won’t be there,” said Craters Superintendent Wade Vagias.
The National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyo., will stop updating its website and social media, and the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center will be closed until further notice starting Monday. This includes postponing any scheduled educational programs at the facility. General travel and area information will still be available from the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce’s office at 260 West Broadway, Jackson, or their satellite location in the Home Ranch Welcome Center, 210 North Cache St.
Bison hunting will continue as scheduled, and hunters will be allowed in if they have a valid permit and matching license. Wildlife viewing sleigh rides, which are offered by a private contractor, won’t be affected either. Ticket sales and shuttle bus service to the sleigh rides will be temporarily relocated to the Home Ranch Welcome Center starting Monday, though. Sleigh riders are encouraged to keep parking at the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center two blocks away and walk to the temporary ticket sales location. The parking lot is also served by several of Teton County’s public bus lines. Go to startbus.com for more information.
The Refuge Road will stay open as a travel corridor and access road to private lands.