Hagerman Wildlife Refuge closes in the wake of federal gov. shutdown

By: Steven Powell Email
By: Steven Powell Email

POTTSBORO, TX -- National parks are closed this evening in the wake of the federal government shut down - including the Hagerman Wildlife Refuge.

Rick Cantu, refuge operation specialist, spent Tuesday morning locking up the Refuge, after getting official word from authorities.

"It's hard not to take it personally when essentially you get a phone call or a notification saying 'hey, we feel you're an important employee, yet you've got to shut your office down, turn off your computer, and go home,'" he said.

Kathy Whaley, refuge manager, said the shutdown comes right as they were preparing for migrating water fowl - a crucial purpose of the refuge.

"And they basically would have less food to browse on, which would probably put them on local neighboring farmers fields, and they would eat their wheat, instead of eating the wheat we would have planted for them," she said.

And the future of Hagerman events remains unclear as well.

"The friends or volunteers or the public, even my employees that are furloughed, they're not allowed to access the refuge at all," Whaley said.

Add to that list the deer hunters, anxiously awaiting the start of the season.

"And they're concerned that they can't go out an scout now. And they're also concerned that if it were to go for a few more weeks that it might impact their hunt - and it would."

Not only are Cantu and Whaley the only employees allowed to stay, they're actually required to show up to work for eight hours each day.

But they won't get paid during the shutdown.

"The reason we are required to be here is to protect the property and the resources," Whaley said.

But the government hasn't given them specifics.

"We just had an all employee meeting, and still questions are gonna arise as we go through this," Cantu said.

Whaley and Cantu will not be able to do any routine maintenance, like keeping up trails or pumping in water for the water fowl wetlands. But they said they will be able to police the park to make trespassers keep out.

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