Interior begins reopening agencies and facilities

By Laura Bies

Everglades National Park was one of the first national parks to begin reopening park facilities in early May. ©Diana Robinson

In a memo dated April 30, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt informed Interior employees that, pursuant to the administration’s Opening Up America Again plan, the department would begin “transitioning our operations to return to regular duty stations in phases.”

The Secretary noted that the reopening of Interior facilities and workplaces will follow local conditions. “The pace of our own actions will be guided by the pace of governors and state and local public health officials,” the memo read. Many of the department’s 70,000 employees have been teleworking since late March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott Cameron, Interior’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget, offered more detail about the plan in a second memo, also dated April 30. That document noted that “telework will no longer be mandatory for all telework-ready Interior employees once their work locality passes into” the first phase of the transition. However, the memo notes that telework may remain the preferred option for some employees, such as those who self-identified as high risk.

According to Bernhardt’s memo, each agency was, as of April 30, “finalizing and will soon begin executing its plans to resume … regular operations.” The National Park Service, which closed more than 150 of 419 sites due to the pandemic, began reopening park sites on May 1. Many parks are reopening partially at first, with some facilities such as visitor centers remaining closed, at least for the next few weeks.

Many National Wildlife Refuges remained open to the public during the past several weeks but closed public buildings within the refuges to visitors. Across the refuge system, many facilities, such as visitor centers, remain closed, although changes are made to facility statuses daily.

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura's articles.

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