Carol Kugler and Ernest Rollins, Herald-Times
“Thank you for your message. I am not in the office at this time.”
That’s the response to voice mails and emails sent to most federal agencies, including some in our area, since the partial federal government shutdown began Dec. 22.
Federal lawmakers are expected to return to Capitol Hill today as the shutdown continues. Congress was unable to reach an agreement before leaving for the Christmas break Dec. 21, which meant a funding lapse that shut down all or parts of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Treasury, State and Homeland Security, the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, federal judiciary and other government programs.
The U.S. Forest Service has closed its offices in Bedford and Tell City. The Hardin Ridge Recreation Area at Lake Monroe is empty, although anglers were still using the boat launch on Wednesday. Gates to all but one campground area were closed and no campers were staying in the area. A recorded message at the Bedford office told callers that no one was in, and an email sent to Andrea Crain, public affairs officer, stated she was on furlough without access to email “due to the lapse in federal government funding.”
Whether the Forest Service would extend comment period for the Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project was unknown as of Wednesday, which was to be the final day for comments about the proposal to remove trees from approximately 4,000 acres of land primarily located in Jackson County with a small portion in Lawrence County. Both the Monroe County commissioners and the Monroe County Council had requested a 30-day extension for public comments in mid-December.
In Bloomington, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field office was also closed, with emails left unanswered. A recorded message at the office told callers everyone was currently out of the office due to the lapse in federal government funding. It directed people who wanted to learn more to go online to doi.gov/shutdown.