With a partial government shutdown looming at midnight Friday, employees in federal offices within the Four Corners are unsure what could happen if the U.S. Congress fails to fund the government.
“We typically don’t know a whole lot more than what some of the news outlets are reporting,” Corey Ertl, rangeland management specialist for the Dolores Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service, said Friday morning.
Joni Vanderbilt, U.S. Forest Service acting public affairs officer for San Juan National Forest, wrote in an email to The Journal that the Office of Management and Budget will issue instructions to affected federal agencies if the shutdown goes into effect. But those instructions have been different every time a shutdown has occurred in the past, she stated.
“We have not received those instructions yet, so we cannot speculate on what a shutdown would look like,” Vanderbilt wrote.
In Montezuma County, 40 percent of land is owned by the federal government. Mesa Verde National Park encompasses 52,000 acres, or 82 square miles, of federal land managed by the National Park Service. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument encompasses 176,000 acres, or 275 square miles, of federal land under the Bureau of Land Management.
At Mesa Verde National Park, spokesperson Cristy Brown directed The Journal to email the National Park Service communications office in Washington for details on how a shutdown would affect the park.
National Park Service spokesperson Jeremy Barnum stated national parks will remain open and as accessible as possible in the event of a government shutdown.
“For example, this means that roads that have already been open will remain open (think snow removal) and vault toilets (wilderness type restrooms) will remain open,” Barnum stated. “However, services that require staffing and maintenance such as campgrounds and full service restrooms, will not be operating.”
A BLM employee in Montrose also directed The Journal to email the office in Washington. The office did not immediately respond.
“We’re all just watching the news,” BLM spokesperson Kristen Lenhardt said.
President Donald Trump, who previously said he would “take the mantle” of a shutdown, said Friday the shutdown could drag on “for a very long time.” The Associated Press reports that more than 800,000 federal workers could face furloughs or postponed pay if a resolution is not reached before funding expires at midnight Friday.
Nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies would face a lapse in funding, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture and State and Justice, as well as national parks and forests.
Many agencies, including the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services, are funded for the year and would continue to operate as usual. The U.S. Postal Service, busy delivering packages for the holiday season, would not be affected by any government shutdown because it’s an independent agency.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.