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What if there is a Shutdown? Effects to Departments of the Interior and Agriculture

Melanie Colón

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Almost 60,000 Department of Interior employees may be furloughed if the government shuts down. (Photo Credit: Dani Zupic/TWS)


Editor's note: See News from the Ornithological Council for more specific information about:






Working on federally managed public lands


In preparation for a very possible government shutdown looming at midnight tonight, offices throughout the Federal Government have posted summaries of their operational contingency plans in the absence of FY14 appropriations.  The National Wildlife Refuge Association  (NWRA) blog  adeptly explained the impact of a shutdown on the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS), estimating that of the 3500 NWRS staff, 310 are essential employees (for the 561 National Wildlife Refuges and 38 Wetland Management Districts), another 100 will be necessary for shutdown procedures, the rest are likely to  be furloughed. The ripple effects of a shutdown will be felt for quite a while, as time to shutdown programs is estimated to take between 0.5 to 7 days for several wildlife related agencies, and it will likewise take several days or weeks to get programs back up and running.


All National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, publicly accessed Bureau of Land Management lands, their associated visitor centers, education programs and facilities will be closed to the public. Anyone camping in National Parks has 48 hours to vacate, and no activities may be conducted by the public until the government reopens; this will include any planned events for National Wildlife Refuge Week (Oct. 17-18) as well as prohibit volunteers from volunteering on federal lands.  A slew of activities, travel, and functions of government employees will be ceased. Furloughed employees may not be able to return emails or phone calls during the shutdown as working without funding would be a violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act.


Activities deemed essential vary between agencies, however fire suppression and control,  law enforcement, animal care activities, emergency and natural disaster response and functions necessary for human and animal health will continue. These include US Geological Survey (USGS) programs in detection and analysis of zoonotic threats in wildlife, emergency flood response, volcanic activity monitoring, earthquake hazards, emergency response in the event of a wildlife mortality event or pandemic, and satellite program maintenance. While, the USGS will cease “Collecting, monitoring analyzing and providing scientific understanding about natural resource conditions issues, and problems, carrying out large scale, multi- disciplinary investigations to provide impartial scientific information,” the US Forest Service will continue green house and growth chamber studies in which a lapse in measurements could “endanger the validity of research findings.” The USGS will also be limiting online access to publications, maps and data as well as stream gauge data to the public. Additionally the US EPA’s, US Department of Agriculture’s and the Department of the Interior’s non-emergency-related websites  will all “go dark” for the duration of the shutdown and will redirect to  doi.gov/shutdown. The USDA will continue its food inspections but halt enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program and close the Farm Service Agency.


How will this affect The Wildlife Society’s annual conference? Some workshops, field trips, and symposiums are already being affected but the full extent of the impact is still unknown.  In the meantime for the most updated TWS conference schedule, download the app for your smart phone or tablet.  And don’t worry you will still get your renewal information and publications from TWS as The U.S. Postal Service is a self-funded agency and will remain open.  In an effort to recognize the hardships this will cause to almost 60,000 Department of the Interior employees (or 7.5% of the estimated 800,000 federal employees to be furloughed), Secretary Jewell reiterated the value of federal service and the contributions of federal employees.


Contingency Plan Summaries for each agency may be found here:

US Department of Agriculture

US Department of the Interior

Sources: National Wildlife Refuge Association Blog (Sept. 30, 2013); Washington Post (Sept. 30, 2013), Des Moines Register Blog (Sept. 30, 2013), Washington Post (Sept. 26, 2013),  Youtube: Secretary Sally Jewell on a Potential lapse in appropriated funds (Sept. 27, 2013), Environment & Energy Daily PM (Sept. 30, 2013); Department of Interior: Shutdown, USDA: Shutdown.

View the full article from The Wildlife Society's Wildlife Policy News

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