The federal government shutdown is causing severe complications to a search-and-rescue mission at a national monument in Idaho.
Federal employees at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve are continuing to search for 63-year-old Dr. Jo Elliot-Blakeslee, Ted Stout, a spokesman for the park, told Business Insider.
Elliot-Blakeslee has been missing since Sept. 19, and the park started the search for her and 69-year-old Amy Linkert five days later. (The two weren’t reported missing until Sept. 23.)
Complications arose on Tuesday, the first day of the first federal government shutdown in 17 years. All national parks and monuments are closed during the shutdown. And most of the park’s staff has been placed on furlough.
“We’re just having great difficulty,” Stout said.
U.S. law forbids federal workers to volunteer during a shutdown. But Stout said that most of the staff still involved in the search — like him — are doing so under the assumption that they will get paid when the federal government reopens.
“We realise there are no guarantees, but we assume that when it’s back open, we will be paid for the time we spent searching,” he said.
Stout said that the search was already being scaled back at the start of this week due to poor weather. A team of about 70 last week found the body of Linkert, but still have been unable to locate Elliot-Blakeslee. Stout said that officials believe the two embarked on a short hike at Craters. Their pickup has been found there, where it was parked with their phones — and dogs — inside.
He said that the effort would be stronger if not for the shutdown.
“We started off with a supreme effort,” Stout said. “This has definitely complicated our efforts.”
At the end of a brief phone interview around 8:45 local time, Stout said he was heading back out into the field.