By David Gonier

By David Gonier

Herald Democrat

Things are back to normal at the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge after employees returned to the federal park Thursday. The employees were among thousand of federal workers told to stay home during a 15-day federal government shutdown when Congress failed to reach a deal on the budget.

"Everyone is concerned because we don’t know what’s going to happen after Jan. 15," Hagerman Wildlife Refuge Manager Kathy Whaley said.

Congress passed a continuing resolution that funds the government at current levels until next year, when a more permanent compromise or another CR will be needed to avert another shutdown.

For now, Whaley said, "most everyone was excited to be back to work. I see some general frustration with the atmosphere that caused the shutdown." Whaley said her employees are especially concerned since they don’t know "whether we’re gonna be shut down again," when the legislation that ended the shutdown expires in January.

Whaley was one of only two Hagerman employees who continued working during the shutdown. Whaley said she was asked to work without pay because her presence was necessary "in case we had to deal with any emergency."

"Our understanding is that in our next check, we will get back pay," Whaley said.

She said Texoma residents missed out on a few events while the Refuge was closed to the public. The Refuge expected 500 to 600 people at its October Super Saturday event, and the Refuge’s free tram tours were also canceled. "We had a good amount of birds last Tuesday just passing through. I personally got to see them, but I was sad that the public didn’t get to," Whaley said.

The park manager said she has received calls from hunting enthusiasts worried about the Refuge’s availability during this hunting season but said "all hunting is back on schedule." The park’s regularly planned events have also returned, including a Saturday event for adults on Nov. 2 and a children’s event on Nov. 9.

Whaley said the Refuge’s employees were eager to return to the work of planning and maintaining the Refuge, including planting 400 acres of winter wheat to attract migrating geese and ducks. "We’re just glad to be back, and we want to invite people to come out and enjoy the Refuge," Whaley said.