Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge shut down by stalemate

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CHRIS JENNINGS/HERALD DEMOCRAT Jay Noel changes gate codes at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge Tuesday morning. Due to the federal government shutdown all service facilities, lands and programs at the refuge are closed or canceled until further notice..
CHRIS JENNINGS/HERALD DEMOCRAT Barriers across the entrance to Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge block the road Tuesday morning.  Due to the federal government shutdown all service facilities, lands and programs at the refuge are closed or canceled until further notice.
CHRIS JENNINGS/HERALD DEMOCRAT Due to the federal government shutdown all service facilities, lands and programs at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge are closed or canceled until further notice.

POTTSBORO — Gayle Ellis, administrator of the Hagerman Wildlife Refuge, was in the refuge’s office on Tuesday morning, but “just to change voicemails and things like that,” she said. Ellis confirmed that the national park will be closed until further notice due to the federal government shutdown.

Ellis said that “due to the lapse in federal funding,” the refuge will close to the public and send home all but one of its employees. Ellis said one park employee will stay to keep the grounds secure, but she has “no idea” when the rest of the government workers will return.

On midnight Monday, the federal government ran out of funding to pay its bills. On Tuesday morning, traffic to the refuge’s official website was redirected to the website of the United States Department of the Interior. On the front page of the DOI’s website, the federal agency has a link to a letter from President of the United States Barack Obama.

“The Federal Government is America’s largest employer, with more than 2 million civilian workers and 1.4 million active duty military who serve in all 50 States and around the world,” the president said in the letter, “but Congress has failed to meet its responsibility to pass a budget before the fiscal year that begins today. And that means much of our government must shut down effective today.”

President Obama called the work of public servants “noble” and “important” in the letter, but that may be of little comfort to thousands of federal employees who will be sent home with uncertainty about their paychecks. After the last federal government shutdown in 1995, some federal workers were reimbursed for their lost wages.

For her part, Ellis is retaining her sense of humor about the situation. She laughed when asked if she has any indication of when she can come back to work. “I guess that’s entirely up to Congress now,” she said.