Friday, December 06, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
Walt Yungen of Dallas watches birds from the side of the road at Baskett Slough on Monday. Due to the federal government shutdown, the interior of the refuge is closed.
October 08, 2013
POLK COUNTY -- It's most commonly called a "partial federal government shutdown." Others prefer to call it a "government slim down."
Frank Kolwicz of Monmouth, a regular at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge northeast of Dallas, called the shutdown "shenanigans in Washington."
Whatever you want to call it, the closure of all "nonessential" elements of the federal government -- running a week by press time Tuesday -- may be with us for a while as partisan gridlock continues in Washington, D.C.
For local agencies, the effects of the shutdown are still a little hazy and won't be immediate in most places.
Most local officials agree, though, the longer the shutdown persists, the worse it will get.
Dallas City Manger Ron Foggin said -- beyond having no one available to help trap a cougar that has been spotted in the Fir Villa Road area -- there are no major impacts to the city in the near term.
"The impact economicallyand on the stock market, it could have an overarching effect on the city," he said. "If it continues, there could definitely be some fallout."
School officials were still sorting out the impact, but say the shutdown shouldn't disrupt most program funding. However, there is some uncertainty about the continuation of federal school lunch program funding past October.
At the county level, the biggest federally funded program is Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition assistance. Polk County Administrator Greg Hansen said there hasn't been any funding issues thus far in the shutdown. If the closure continues for a lengthy amount of time, that could change.
The recently approved county timber payment will be delayed, too.
One of the more immediate effects of the shutdown locally is the closure of Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge. Kolwicz was one of a few "birders" out bird watching along Coville Road that borders the refuge Monday morning. The road is open to the public, but the rest of the refuge is not.
Kolwicz said there was some confusion with local police about whether people could still use the road Friday, but eventually jurisdiction was sorted out.
He said he was surprised about the concern over birders using the road and refuge parking lot given what other activity could be happening and the lack of U.S. Fish and Wildlife rangers on duty.
"If they are worried about poachers ... It's better to have people like birders out here to see and report that," he said.
Sharon Selvaggio, Baskett Slough's manager, said she's part of a skeleton crew that is assigned to keep an eye out.
"I'm patrolling the refuge on a daily basis, making sure it looks good and letting people know it's closed," she said.
Selvaggio said she hasn't had to ask too many people to leave, yet.
"Hopefully, the federal government will reopen soon," she said.
Kolwicz said the birding community has had some lively discussions about the shutdown and its impact. He said he, and others who enjoy the pastime, are thankful to the rangers who maintain the parks and refuges.
"Now, because of the shenanigans in Washington, their funding is gone," he said. "They have done a tremendous job."