Citizens help refuge during government shutdown - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Citizens help refuge during government shutdown

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WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Ill. -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services was one of many government entities affected by the 35-day government shutdown.

One of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's properties impacted was Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. It's been almost a week since the refuge reopened after being closed for more than a month. 

Rick Speer is the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge manager. He says during the shutdown, only six of the refuge's 22 employees were allowed to come to work. 

"We wouldn't maintain trails, we were not picking up trash and we were not cleaning the restrooms that were out on the refuge," Speer said. "People could still come out to the refuge. We were taking care of emergency security situations, the few of us that were here. The rest of the folks were furloughed and were waiting to be called back."

Administrators and law enforcement officers made up a handful of employees left to maintain the 44,000 acre refuge. 

Employees couldn't clean the bathrooms, maintain the trails, or pick up the trash. Instead, they had to take care of various infrastructures like the dam to the three lakes and checking on the buildings. 

"We were concerned about what would happen with the trash," Speer said. 

A few days after the start of the shutdown, Speer and other administrators started to notice there was no trash. 

"We had private citizens that were going out picking up trash, putting it in the back of the vehicles and putting new trash bags out," Speer said. "You know folks really care about the refuge and I'm really proud of the community support during that time."

Since the refuge opened on Monday, staff has been catching up on missed calls, checking Facebook and updating their website to prepare for the warmer temperatures. 

The visitor's center is back open daily from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Click here to visit the refuge's website and search their calendar of events. 

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