With its onetime leader now effectively out the door, the Interior Department is quietly turning to a 2017 set of contingency plans to navigate the next government shutdown.
What this means for specific bureaus, offices and individuals remains somewhat opaque, even to those within the department of about 70,000 employees.
Unlike the Energy Department and other agencies, Interior has not yet received its fiscal 2019 funding. And unlike EPA, Interior has no apparent intention of staying completely open with the use of carry-over funds.
A number of Interior elements, though, will keep operating.
"Please do not turn off comments on any social media platforms," Interior’s guidance states. "If a platform has a profanity filter, please make sure it is set to strong."
Outside of keeping swear words off of Interior’s online properties, measures are being taken to keep some of the department’s most popular assets functioning.
Today, with the shutdown looming, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) declared that Grand Canyon National Park will remain open and continue services including shuttles and restrooms. Ducey said that the state parks agency will collaborate with the National Park Service, local governments and businesses to ensure that services and public safety functions continue.
Many other national parks and their would-be visitors won’t be as lucky (Greenwire, Dec. 17).
"Parks must notify visitors that the NPS will cease providing visitor services, including restrooms, trash collection, facilities and roads maintenance, … campground reservation and check-in/check-out services, backcountry and other permits," Interior’s guidance states.
The guidance adds that "non-excepted employees will generally have four hours to complete their shutdown activities before entering furlough status."
Park service employees who will stay on the job include those responsible for protecting life and property, which can cover everything from law enforcement to maintenance of power and IT systems. Of 24,681 NPS employees, the guidance estimates 21,383 would be furloughed.
The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that it will take a half-day to shut down most operations. In addition to law enforcement personnel, the bureau exempts among others refuge managers and, according to the guidance, "animal caretakers, who must feed and care for live animals and those who must protect lab materials that may spoil."
Conservation officers and wildlife inspectors will continue to work, and fish hatcheries will retain at least one staffer.
FWS estimated last year that of the 8,359 positions within the agency, 1,331 were identified as excepted from the shutdown mandate.
The Bureau of Land Management has about 9,260 employees and would furlough about 6,930, according to the agency’s contingency plan.
The agency, which administers more than 245 million acres of public land, says that the lands "will, in most cases, remain accessible to the public but most services will not be available during a shutdown."
The Bureau of Reclamation, however, would avoid sweeping furloughs. It’s already received funding through the energy and water appropriations bill that was signed in September and can remain open.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who will hold the essential office until Jan. 2, is out on vacation time, according to an Interior official. A final Zinke interview scheduled to be aired on Fox News last night was bumped, due in part to the latest government shutdown developments.