More than 100 full-time employees in Glacier National Park are still out of work as the partial shutdown of the federal government enters its third week.
While Glacier remains open to the public, fewer than a dozen employees are reporting for duty and none of them are getting paid. Among those still working are law enforcement officers, dispatchers and a few essential maintenance employees. Superintendent Jeff Mow and other administrative personnel are among those who have been furloughed.
While local National Park Service (NPS) employees have been ordered not to report to work, that hasn’t stopped them from serving their community. On Jan. 8, Mow and nearly two-dozen other NPS employees spent the morning volunteering at the Flathead Food Bank in Kalispell. Earlier in the week, some employees volunteered their time at the Glacier National Park Conservancy warehouse and others were planning on working at the Humane Society of Northwest Montana in the coming days.
“While we can’t serve in the park, it’s nice that we can get together and still serve the community,” said Mary Riddle, chief of planning and environmental compliance at Glacier.
Riddle and other employees volunteering at the food bank expressed frustration with the ongoing shutdown, which President Donald Trump said could last “months or even years” if he doesn’t get funding for a wall on the southern border.
The shutdown that began on Dec. 22 has impacted 800,000 federal employees. According to the Washington Post, Montana is one of the states most impacted by the shutdown outside of the Washington D.C. area. That’s because the vast majority of federal employees in Montana work for either the Department of Interior or Department of Agriculture, two agencies that have been basically shuttered due to the funding lapse.
“It’s frustrating and demoralizing,” said Tracy Ammerman, chief of interpretation and education at Glacier.
Ammerman said she has talked to a number of colleagues at Glacier and across the Park Service who are worried about not getting paid. Some have even expressed the concern that they’ll miss a mortgage payment and might lose their home. Ammerman said she was planning on building a new home this spring, but now she’s not sure she’ll be able to.
“You try to do a little financial planning and make sure you have a little bit of a buffer, but I think everyone still needs a regular paycheck,” she said.
Diane Sine, a seasonal ranger at Glacier Park, was also volunteering at the food bank. She said that it was important for her to show support for her colleagues.
Jamie Quinn, executive director of the food bank, said she welcomed the help from the Glacier employees and added that her organization stood ready to help any federal employees looking for food if the shutdown dragged on.
“These people are dedicated to their community and they’re service minded,” Quinn said.