Ten Park Service rangers furloughed as a result of the government shutdown are volunteering their time to scour a national park in Idaho for a missing physician, whose search has been complicated by federal closures.
Jo Elliott-Blakeslee, 63, was last seen in Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve with companion Amy Linkert, 69, last week. They were reported missing Sep. 23, when Elliott-Blakeslee did not report to work. The duo’s car was found at the park with their purses, cellphones and dogs inside. Linkert’s body was discovered last Wednesday, two days after they were reported missing.
Hampered first by bad weather and then by a federal shutdown that closed the park Tuesday and banned rangers from working, staffers have volunteered to work unpaid. Elliott-Blakeslee’s family have also turned to Facebook to call on volunteers with “backcountry skills and expertise” to aid the search.
Seventy rescuers in the first days of the search had dogs and several helicopters at their disposal, said National Park Service spokesman Ted Stout, who is one of the unpaid rangers volunteering his time.
Now the team is just 10 unpaid rangers working an area of more than 1,100 square miles, mostly on foot, Stout told ABCNews.com
“We’re giving it our best shot,” he said, adding that “the government shutdown complicated things.”
The rangers are working without pay, he said, but they had been “assured by top levels in the Parks Service that this is an emergency and we should assume will be paid when the funds are available.”