Government employees are heading back to work in Moffat and Routt counties after a 16-day-long government shutdown that put 800,000 federal employees into furlough nationwide.
The government started a partial shutdown Oct. 1 after Republicans and Democrats in Congress couldn’t agree on a budget. Republicans had attached a provision to defund the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, onto the U.S. budget, launching a bitter struggle that brought the nation to the brink of default. Leaders in Congress finally reached a deal late Wednesday.
“BLM employees are back to work,” said Celia Boddington, assistant director of communications for the Bureau of Land Management.
Even though they were furloughed, federal employees still will receive back pay.
During the shutdown, federal agencies reduced their staffs to essential employees. In Moffat County, the Bureau of Land Management furloughed about 70 employees. Dinosaur National Monument had to furlough 46 of its employees, and the National Forest Service furloughed about 38 of its staff in Routt County.
Director of Communications for Colorado BLM Steven Hall said the BLM is working to get back to normal.
“We hope to be fully operational soon,” he said. “During the shutdown, no work was done on public lands.”
Monument staff also was ready to get back to work. Dan Johnson, chief of interpretation and visitor services at Dinosaur National Monument, said he had about 200 emails waiting in his inbox when he got back.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Johnson said. “We’re glad to be back here. We’re hopeful it doesn’t happen again in a few months.”
Monument staff opened up the entire park. Roads, campgrounds and visitor centers are accessible to the public again. While the staff is excited to be back at their jobs, they didn’t escape the shutdown unscathed.
“We definitely lost the funds we would have gotten through our entrance fees,” Johnson said. “Approximately $9,000 to $10,000.”
Intermountain History Association, which runs the gift shops at the monument, took an even bigger hit, losing about $24,000 in sales.
The Forest Service is scrambling to get back on projects they had to leave behind during the shutdown.
“It’s going to be a process. Probably a little more involved than even the shutdown was,” U.S. Forest Service spokesman Larry Sandoval said.
The Forest Service employees are working on getting back on track.
“Any time you lose 2 1/2 weeks of valuable field time, you have to regroup and reassess,” he said.
Erin Fenner at 970-875-1794 or erinfenner@CraigDailyPress.com.