CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The most obvious effect of the federal shutdown in West Virginia may be apparent to visitors to national parks in the state.
National parks are considered accessible, but don’t expect to check out the visitors center or interact with a park ranger.
If there’s snow before the shutdown ends, roads and trails within parks may not be cleared.
It’s also the situation for the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in the Eastern Panhandle.
The partial government shutdown officially began at midnight Saturday. But because of the weekend followed by the Christmas holiday, this may be the first day effects are really felt.
The shutdown affects only parts of the federal government.
Agencies include the State Department, the Justice Department, the Transportation Department, the Agriculture Department and the Department of the Interior.
About 800,000 federal employees are being furloughed.
Here’s some of what is and isn’t affected in West Virginia.
National Parks are sort of open
As described above, there is access to national parks in West Virginia, but not a full array of services.
The National Park Service contingency plan says the agency will stop providing visitor services, including restrooms, trash collection and facilities and roads maintenance, including plowing.
“Staffing levels will be based on the assumption that no visitor services will be provided,” according to the park service contingency plan.
National forests are sort of open
Similarly, the national forests may be accessible but are unlikely to provide visitor services.
That would include, for example, the Monongahela National Forest, where the website right now says it will not actively be updated.
The U.S. Forest Service, which operates under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been winding down its operations.
Essential personnel will stay on.
Those include forest law enforcement and firefighters, employees whose programs are funded through other means or employees overseeing time-critical projects that would be compromised without being tended.
Office of Surface Mining is open for emergencies only
The office, which is responsible for ensuring that citizens and the environment are protected during coal mine surface activities, will mostly be closed.
Some employees will be on call, and the director for the Appalachian region will be on duty to lead any necessary emergency response.
Possible emergency responses could include landslides near homes and across roads, subsidence under houses and public buildings, mine and coal waste fires or open shafts.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is partially open
This department has limited operations during the shutdown.
About 60 percent of the agency is expected to have funding through the end of the week. After that, furloughs will significantly increase.
The USDA Food Safety Inspection Service staff has been considered essential in the past to minimize interruption to the country’s food supply.
Slaughterhouse operations should not be affected, which is important to West Virginia farmers.
“I would note that keeping slaughter houses open is important because the ones inspected by the state are not authorized to allow meat to cross state lines,” said Crescent Gallagher, a spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.
Farm service centers are closed.
The centers provide market guidance and other support to farmers. This could provide inconvenience for farmers who want guidance on the most recent Farm Bill, passed last week.
Food stamps are available — for now
The office of Food and Nutrition Services, which oversees food stamps programs, is expected to have its staffing cut by 95 percent by the fifth day of the shutdown.
Right now the agency, like many affected federal offices, has a note at the top of its website:
“Due to a lapse in federal funding, this USDA website will not be actively updated. Once funding has been re-established, online operations will continue.”
The federal court system is open for now
The federal courts system has enough money to operate through Jan. 11.
The federal courts system will be able to function by using leftover money from court fees and “other funds not dependent on a new appropriation.”
“If the shutdown were to continue past three weeks and exhaust the federal judiciary’s resources, the courts would then operate under the terms of the Anti-Deficiency Act, which allows work to continue during a lapse in appropriations if it is necessary to support the exercise of Article III judicial powers,” U.S. Courts added.
“Under this scenario, each court and federal defender’s office would determine the staffing resources necessary to support such work.”
Federal prosecutors will remain on the job, although some staff within the U.S. Attorney’s Office would be considered non-essential and subject to furlough.
“The basic law enforcement functions will continue without delay,” Mike Stuart the U.S. Attorney for Southern West Virginia, told MetroNews.
FBI in Clarksburg is excepted from furlough
The Criminal Justice Information Services office in Clarksburg provides research tools to law enforcement and national security.
The office is commonly referred to as a fingerprint lab because of its work with identification.
Like many affected agencies, the office’s website has a notification that information will not be updated regularly.
But Department of Justice guidance says the FBI office is among those necessary to provide direction and investigative support.
“This includes personnel in the Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which provides fingerprint identification services to criminal and national security investigations.”
More from the Federal Bureau of Investigation:
“FBI operations are directed towards national security and violations of federal law, and must be able to continue during a lapse in appropriations. As such, all FBI agents and support personnel in field offices are considered excepted from furlough.”
Most Bureau of the Fiscal Services employees are exempt
This is a major employer in Parkersburg, where residents usually call it the Bureau of Public Debt.
It’s the Department of Treasury agency charged with managing the government’s accounting, central payment systems and public debt.
Guidance from the agency says 2,801 of its 3,532 employees are considered exempt.
That’s mostly because employee compensation comes from sources other than annual appropriations.
The IRS is mostly closed
The agency, which is under the Treasury Department, plans to furlough a significant number of its workers because tax season has yet to go into full swing.
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are running
All three fall under mandatory spending by the federal government.
New applicants for the three programs may face a wait, though.
Veterans hospitals and benefits are untouched
The Department of Veterans Affairs already has its federal funding, so veterans hospitals will remain open.
The U.S. Postal Service is uninterrupted
Post offices will remain open, and mail delivery will continue.
You can still get a passport
People can still get passports and visas through the State Department, although access may be limited if the services are offered in buildings run by another agency that is shut down.
Airports are open
Air traffic controllers, who are under the Federal Aviation Administration, are considered essential and will keep working.
Transportation Security Administration agents are also considered essential.
National Weather Service still provides forecasts
The National Weather Service will continue to provide critical forecast, watch, and warning information to protect life and property throughout the shutdown.
But all other public National Weather Service activities, such as long-term research, have been canceled or postponed until further notice.
The National Energy Technology Laboratory is open
The Morgantown laboratory is open because it operates under the U.S. Department of Energy, which already had its funding.
Green Bank Observatory not interrupted
The National Science Foundation is closed.
But the Green Bank Observatory, which operates under funding by the foundation and other sources, remains open.
The observatory is home to the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. The Science Center at Green Bank is open for tours Thursday through Sunday each week.