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Aransas National Wildlife Refuge closes along with federal government Tuesday

By Jessica Priest
Oct. 1, 2013 at 5:01 a.m.


Because of the federal government's budget impasse, the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge shut its doors Tuesday.

In an answering machine message, refuge personnel advise park users that all programs are canceled.

The Refuge's website, which is maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was also redirected to the U.S. Department of Interior's website.

Because the refuge is closed, hunting and fishing as well as biking and walking on its trails and roads are prohibited, according to the agency's contingency plan fact sheet.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has 561 refuges and 38 wetland management districts.

It estimates it has 310 staff members exempted from the shutdown who are either law enforcement officers, firefighters or animal caretakers. They are needed for life and asset protection, the agency explained.

The Workforce Solutions of the Golden Crescent, meanwhile, was relatively unscathed by the political wrangling; although for how long, no one knows.

Henry Guajardo, the executive director of the Workforce Solutions of the Golden Crescent, said its 2014 programs and services were funded in June.

It received $5.9 million from the federal government to help provide residents job training, child care and employers qualified applicants.

Its offices in the seven-county region were up and running. A couple years ago, the government shaved about $40,000 from its budget in harsh economic times, he said.

"You never know how these things will affect us in the future, but right now, we're focused on doing our job," Guajardo said.

Head Start programs, which help educate children in low-income families, in Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Gonzales, Jackson, Lavaca and Victoria counties will remain unaffected by the government shutdown, said Manny DuQue, Teaching and Mentoring Communities vice president.

Reporter Carolina Astrain contributed to this report.

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