Partial Government Shutdown Impacts Region

Jan 2, 2019

We're nearly two weeks into the federal government shutdown.

In southern Illinois, non-essential operations are shut down at the Shawnee National Forest. This is part of what you hear if you call the headquarters in Harrisburg.

"Hello, you've reached the Shawnee National Forest supervisor's office. We are not in the office at this time. We are on furlough due to the lapse in federal government funding."
 
Non-essential services are also closed at the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. Workers associated with law enforcement, cyber security and natural disaster response are still on duty at both the refuge and the national forest.

The U.S. General Services Administration says the status of offices within the Paul Simon Federal Building in Carbondale is based on each individual agency.

Conservation groups are keeping a watchful eye on federal agency websites during the government shutdown.

They say agencies that include the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service Planning and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have stopped updating their web pages.

The concern, says Taylor McKinnon at the Center for Biological Diversity, is that those sites are key to accessing information and ways for people to comment on environmental decisions.
 
"With this shutdown, the public has been blocked from accessing the information it needs to participate in the planning processes, and they have pending comment deadlines."

McKinnon says shutting down websites and public-comment portals isn't consistent with federal policy.
 
"The standing policy for the Department of the Interior is that these websites are supposed to remain active during shutdowns. They have a policy that's very clear. It suggests that there was a deliberate effort here to actually take these sites offline."

Groups are asking the administration to immediately reactivate the Interior Department's portals and extend the dates for current public-comment periods.