Government shutdown ‘standoff’ continues

Signs greet visitors to Bridger-Teton National Forrest offices.

SUBLETTE COUNTY – The federal

government shutdown of 2018 that officially

began at midnight on Dec. 22 dragged into the

new year with nothing resolved between Congress

and the White House.

Congress abandoned most efforts over the

holidays to reach a budget compromise, waiting

as the Democratic Party is poised to lead

the U.S. House of Representatives. Recently

elected legislators were sworn in on Thursday,

Jan. 3. They had talked of introducing and approving

a two-part spending package on the

first day of the House’s new session to tide

over departments of the Interior, Agriculture

and Homeland Security.

But the Republican-led U.S. Senate is not

expected to consider ending the gridlock and

President Trump has refused to accept appropriations

proposals that do not include a

multi-billion-dollar southern border wall. He

also has threatened to close the U.S. border

with Mexico.

Federal connections

Some Sublette County and Wyoming offices

with federal connections are not yet seriously

impacted by the shutdown.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service

office in Pinedale is open while the U.S.

Department of Agriculture is closed on the

national level.

Sublette County Emergency Management

Service Director Jim Mitchell, who serves as

the county’s liaison to Wyoming Department

of Homeland Security, said grants for Hoback

Ranches’ post-fire rehabilitation are safe.

Wyoming DHS is not affected at the state

level – “At this level, it’s business as usual.”

Environmental Protection Agency’s Region

8 Office in Denver is closed, which is a

frequent federal partner for the Wyoming Department

of Environmental Quality.

“We have assessed the impacts of a federal

shutdown on our operational budget and fortunately,

due to upfront work and planning with

our federal partners, the state budget office

and our fiscal staff, we will not be immediately

affected by the government shutdown,”

said DEQ spokesman Keith Guille. “However,

due to the nature of some of our federal grants,

we will need to monitor our operational budget

closely.”

And although public access to planning

documents was restored this past week for the

Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management,

the websites are not being updated. And

if the public has questions, there is still no one

to answer them by phone, email or in person.

Trails and traffic

In a similar vein, Grand Teton National

Park and Yellowstone remain just as they

were before the shutdown but with unstaffed

entrances and National Park Service employees

on unpaid furloughs.

Just outside Teton Park’s south entrance,

Dornan’s in Moose is a busy place right now

for snowshoers and cross-country skiers who

don’t have to pay entry fees, noted Austin

Stickler in the Trading Post. He said Wednesday

that no one appears to be staffing the Park

Service’s nearby visitor center.

“I haven’t seen Park Service people anywhere

around here in the last couple of weeks,”

he said. “Not even coming in for lunch.”

The public is bustling through the southernmost

access point to the two trailheads left

open at the start of winter. A barricade closes

the road past Bradley-Taggart trailhead and

the Rockefeller Preserve trail to Phelps Lake

is open.

“We’re definitely getting a lot of traffic,”

Stickler said, adding he hasn’t heard of any

messy issues. “The parking lots have been full

here about every day.”

In Yellowstone, winter concessionaires are

grooming trails for commercial and private

snowmobile or snowcoach trips and tours,

according to the Associated Press. Contractors

are also hauling trash and replacing toilet

paper as best they can with Yellowstone

always a very popular winter destination. n

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