Brewster Natural Resources Director Chris Miller was in Washington, D.C., this week at an environmental conference where half the speakers he had hoped to hear — all federal environmental and science agency employees — were absent.
While many stories have focused on the shutdown’s financial effects on employees, it is also hurting those who depend on the federal government for funding and expertise.
The New England Fishery Management Council, which formulates management plans for the billion-dollar Northeast commercial fishing industry, depends on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists and fishery management personnel for analysis and input. But NOAA headquarters in Gloucester and the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole are closed, and the council has had to postpone any decisions at their upcoming meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and postpone most advisory committee meetings until the shutdown is resolved.
Major scientific institutions such as Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Marine Biological Laboratory and Woods Hole Research Center, all in Woods Hole, are concerned about future funding, but also worried that the flow of information for both research and permitting has dried up. WHOI depends on Navy and National Institutes of Health grants and contracts, which were funded in an earlier federal appropriation.
“The more significant disruptions are in the area of administrative and collaborative activities,” WHOI President and Director Mark Abbott said.
For instance, federal research permits critical for work in fragile environments or with protected species cannot be obtained.
“While not having a direct financial impact, these impacts could be disruptive to our science,” he said.
Both MBL and WHOI are fretting over one of the federal government’s major funders, the National Science Foundation, which is accepting grant proposals but won’t process them until after the shutdown.
“For us, the biggest challenge or concern is the work we do that is supported by federal grants that is not being reimbursed by federal agencies during the shutdown,” Woods Hole Research Center spokesman David McGlinchey said. “We are dipping into our savings to keep the work active. But longer term, if this continues, that’s a concern.”
“We work with the Environmental Protection Agency and NOAA, and, certainly, long-term delays would have impacts on what we are doing,” Cape Cod Commission Executive Director Kristy Senatori said.
But Senatori said she was more concerned with getting people in the federal government back to work, particularly at Cape Cod National Seashore, because of the effects on our seasonal economy.
The Seashore is trying to stay as accessible as possible but is not able to offer visitor services, according to Chief Ranger Leslie Reynolds.
“Salt Pond Visitor Center, Restrooms and Park Headquarters are closed due to the lapse in appropriations,” she wrote in an email earlier this week. “Law Enforcement rangers are on duty to protect the public and the resources.”
Officials are asking the public to help keep the Seashore clean by using bathroom facilities outside the park and to pack out trash and dog waste, she wrote, adding that so far there have been no problems with trash and waste.
“The Cape Cod community and our visitors have done a great job in caring for this special place,” she wrote.
— Staff writer Mary Ann Bragg contributed to this report. Follow Doug Fraser on Twitter: @dougfrasercct