The end of the federal shutdown means boats will be back out on the Bering Sea to fish for king crab. Loggers are being allowed back into national forests in Oregon. And barriers keeping nature lovers out of national parks across the country have been removed.
Crews on about 80 boats have been sitting out the multimillion-dollar harvest of red king crab because federal managers who assign fishing quotas were among workers furloughed during the government’s partial shutdown. They’re relieved that they’ll soon be able to start their harvest, bringing back an industry that was one of many private sectors of the economy stalled around the country by the bickering in Washington.
“I’m glad the madness has ended,” said Capt. Keith Colburn, a regular on Discovery Channel’s popular reality show “Deadliest Catch.”
Life started to return to normal as the federal government sprang back to life after the 16-day partial shutdown that came to a close after the House and Senate voted late Wednesday to end it. Even the popular panda cam at the National Zoo was back online, though the zoo itself won’t reopen until Friday. Federal workers who were furloughed or worked without pay during the shutdown will get back pay in their next paychecks, which for most employees come Oct. 29.
National parks removed barriers and welcomed visitors who had previously been turned away. The Twitter feed of Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state posted a picture of the 14,411-foot mountain backed by blue skies, with the message “What a beautiful morning to welcome us back to Mount Rainier! Park gates are now open.”
National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said all 401 national park units — including landmarks such the Liberty Bell and Yellowstone — reopened Thursday.
Visitors from around the world flocked to Yosemite National Park to see such famous sites as El Capitan and Half Dome after weeks of closure brought local economies to a near standstill.
More than 20,000 National Park Service employees had been among the 800,000 federal workers sent home at the peak of the shutdown.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park spokeswoman Dana Soehn said that returning employees faced a backlog of work, particularly emails from people applying for permits, and other requests.
“All of those still required response now that we’re back to work,” said Soehn, adding that she realizes there could be another shutdown in the next few months.
“That is not a prospect that anyone is looking forward to,” she said.
At the World War II Memorial, which became a flash point of anger and blame over the government shutdown, the memorial honouring more than 400,000 who died was calm and peaceful again. The memorial’s fountains were turned back on, and there were no signs of the barricades that had limited access to the site during the shutdown.
The U.S. Forest Service started lifting a logging ban on national forests. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services restarted the computerized system used to verify the legal status of workers. Boat trips resumed to Alcatraz, the former federal prison in San Francisco Bay, with 1,600 tickets snapped up by tourists in the first hour of business.
Among the many sites reopening in Washington were the Smithsonian Institution’s museums, which lost about $2.8 million in revenue during the shutdown, according to Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is tackling backlogs in several of its programs as furloughed workers return.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan welcomed back workers in a video message posted on the agency’s website.
“You are better than what we saw in Washington over the past few weeks,” he told them. “And I want you to know that your work here at HUD is valued. It’s important. It’s necessary.”
The Defence Department called back about 7,000 furloughed civilians. In an open letter to the workforce, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the department still faces budget uncertainty as Congress struggles to pass a 2014 spending bill and deal with automatic budget cuts. Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale said the department lost at least $600 million worth of productivity during the four days that civilians were furloughed.
In Cincinnati, Renee Yankey, a government alcohol and tobacco tax specialist, was sleep-deprived after staying up late to watch news of the shutdown-ending deal, but otherwise glad to be back at work with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
“I can tell that the alcohol industry missed us,” Yankey said. “The first thing I hear is ‘I’m so glad I got a person on the phone!'”
Patrice Roberts, who works for Homeland Security, said she wasn’t prepared for the emotional lows of the past 16 days.
“It’s just frustrating having that kind of control over your life and just having it taken away from me,” said Roberts, who is expecting another shutdown in January. “I’ll be better prepared next time.”
La Corte reported from Olympia, Wash. Associated Press writers Rachel D’Oro in Anchorage, Alaska; Matthew Barakat in Reston, Va.; Ben Nuckols in Springfield, Va.; Dan Sewell in Cincinnati; Michael Rubinkam in Pottsville, Pa.; Jeannie Nuss in North Little Rock, Ark.; Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia; Lucas L. Johnson II in Nashville, Tenn.; and Jessica Gresko, Brett Zongker, Andrew Miga and Sam Hananel in Washington contributed to this report.