JACKSON — Stressed out but pleased to be back is how Grand Teton National Park spokesman Andrew White described his colleagues’ attitudes after 35 involuntary days out of the office.

“There’s an overriding feeling of stress among our staff,” White said. “We’re working to mitigate that, but we don’t expect people to complete five weeks of work in one week.”

Some 300 federal employees who punch a clock in Teton County returned to work Monday, after a record 35-day shutdown caused by Congressional disagreement over funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. President Trump announced Friday there would be a three-week reopening, which allowed approximately 800,000 federal employees to resume their normal lives and catch up on pay.

Bridger-Teton National Forest spokeswoman Mary Cernicek conveyed a similar account at her North Cache Street office. Colleagues are busy but content, she said, wading through a month of work that piled up while offices were shuttered.

“Phones have been ringing like crazy,” Cernicek said. “The attitude is like, ‘Get out of my way, ’cause I’ve got a lot to catch up on.’ It feels good.”

While the emotional hangovers from the shutdown might be fleeting, it threatens to have lasting local effects on research, hiring seasonal employees and other routine federal business.

On the National Elk Refuge law enforcement was kept on during the shutdown to police the bison hunt, and staff biologist Eric Cole was allowed to work two to three days a week to determine if elk feeding should start. But other parts of Cole’s duties were derailed.

“I wish I could be working on everything I typically work on this time of year,” he told the News&Guide before returning to work, “and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get back to work.”

Research using drones to measure elk density was put on hold, and he was told not to proceed with an analysis of potential management responses to chronic wasting disease’s arrival in the valley until the shutdown ended.

Even determining where elk were — a part of the feeding equation — was stymied because he lacked access to real-time GPS location data.

“The collar data would be helpful to look at elk distribution on and off the refuge,” he said.


By Mike Koshmrl

Jackson Hole News&Guide Via Wyoming News Exchange