Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge opens amid gov. shutdown

WAAY 31 spent the day talking to folks who’ve been affected by the shutdown during, what they consider, their most stressful time of year.

Posted: Jan 10, 2019 7:31 PM
Updated: Jan 10, 2019 7:48 PM

The government shutdown is impacting more people in our area. That includes employees at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur who just started their first day back on the job since the shutdown began.

WAAY 31 spent the day talking to those folks who’ve been affected by the shutdown during, what they consider, their most stressful time of year.

“This is where I began my career, and it’s where I will end my career," said Teresa Adams.

Supervisory Park Ranger Adams is from Decatur and, for as long as she can remember, the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge has been a part of her life.

“Wheeler’s very special. It’s very special to me, but it’s just a special place," she said.

But when the government shut down, so did the visitors center at Wheeler.

Luckily, the grounds remained opened.

“A lot of people still came out. They were able to go out back behind the visitors center and walk one of the trails," Adams said.

The shutdown couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time as the refuge was planning to host their biggest event of the year this weekend—the Festival of Cranes.

“Seeing the birds come back, we all get very excited, because that’s become a really big deal for the area," Adams said.

But thanks to leftover money from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s operations fund from last year, 38 of about 560 refuges across the country will have the help they need to maintain limited staffing for the next 30 days.

Wheeler was one of only five lucky ones chosen in the southeast region.

And while only five of about 15 employees are able to work, Adams says they have lots of volunteers, and they’re just thankful that the festival will still go on.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to bring anybody back during a shutdown," she said. "The ones who could return, we’re all very thrilled to be here.”

The Festival of Cranes starts Friday night and ends on Sunday.

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