Yellowstone, Forest Service Resume Operations
Beginning Sunday, Jan. 27, some federal employees went back to work after the longest lapse of appropriations in U.S. history.
A press release from Yellowstone National Park stated that employees are happy to return to work serving the American people and welcoming visitors to Yellowstone.
Yellowstone visitor centers that are normally open at this time of year, including the Albright Visitor Center, the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, the lobby of the Canyon Visitor Education Center, and the ranger-staffed desk at the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center reopened at 11 a.m. on Sunday. These visitor centers are once again issuing backcountry permits and collecting entrance fees.
On Monday, Jan. 28, the majority of furloughed Yellowstone staff returned to perform remaining park functions, such as processing the backlog of applications for special use permits, film permits, commercial use authorizations, and research permits.
By midday Monday, the public was also able to obtain permits for the non-commercially-guided snowmobile access program.
In the release, the park asked for patience as employees work to remove snow and perform safety checks necessary to reopen park facilities and operations in a manner that is safe for them and the public.
The release extended a special thank you to the concessioners, local gateway communities, and partners who provided donations and support to Yellowstone National Park over the last 35 days.
National Forest Service employees were also called back to work.
In a letter addressed “To the dedicated employees of the USDA Forest Service,” Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen wrote, “I wish I could personally be at every unit to shake your hand, thank you, and tell you how much we value you; how very much we missed you. I am deeply grateful for your resilience during this time. I know there were times when many of you edged close to a breaking point. This has certainly tested my mettle.”
Christiansen estimated the resumption of normal activities would take about three weeks, while recovery would be ongoing. The continuing resolution passed by the U.S. Legislature only provides for three weeks’ worth of funding for the federal government.
Christiansen reported that every employee would receive a Resuming Operations Checklist and Guide, which will provide instructions for the technical aspects of getting their operations back up and running, such as timesheet instructions and password resets.
Regarding the recovery process, Christiansen wrote, “I’ve heard heart-breaking stories: inability to put food on the table, mortgages and medical bills going unpaid, feelings of hopelessness, and anxiety. This has weighed heavily on me.”
Christiansen warned against employees being too eager to jump in and continue delivering the benefits and services the American people expect of them. She reasoned that the agency will need to reset much of their work after losing one month of critical time.