WILLIAMSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services have announced that they will use some unspent money to open up 38 national wildlife refuges across the country and get staff back on payroll. Unfortunately, for workers and lovers of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, they will continue to be closed.
According to President of Friends of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, Judy Groskind, if one of the refuges is opening despite the government shutdown, then all of them should be reopened.
The selected refuges have been reopened for reasons such as large, previously scheduled events or high visitation rates, according to the announcement.
So while she, and other representatives of the Refuge Association, are happy to see some effort into opening parks back up, they are strongly opposing to open only 38 refuges.
Groskind says Crab Orchard should fall under that category for a number of reasons, such as it’s importance to Southern Illinois tourism, drawing in 800,000 visitors a year.
Right now the only people who are working on the refuge are ‘essential.' Groskind said these are the people who keep the refuges safe like law enforcement. Still, those people are working, but aren’t getting paid.
“30 people on this refuge that are currently not receiving wages,” she said, “whether they’re working or at home, they’re not getting paid.”
As a volunteer, Groskind isn’t in the loop on who exactly is essential to the operations of the refuge. However, she is seeing first hand the affect on the people she works with.
“These are our friends and coworkers,” she said, “they’re maxing out their credit cards, they’re using up their saving accounts, and they’re really worried about what they’re going to do if they don’t get their next paycheck.”
Groskind said they also have a number of events planned that they can’t do without FWS employees there, such as their yearly Eagle Tours. She said if the shutdown doesn’t end by tomorrow, and people get back to work, they will have to start canceling them.