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Government shut down would close Sanibel wildlife refuge

Posted at 7:23 PM, Jan 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-18 19:23:25-05

The J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge closed the last time the government shut down in 2014 - and it's preparing for that prospect again. 

"I wouldn't want to drive up and find out I couldn't enter because they were closed," said John Johnson of Maine, visiting Sanibel for the week. "If they shut down any facilities around here, that wouldn't be good for us."

But with the White House and Congress struggling to agree on a budget, a government shutdown would mean that the federally-funded "Ding" Darling Refuge would be closed by Saturday.

"It would be a big disappointment," said Linda Smith, also visiting from Maine. She's also concerned about the businesses that rely on the wildlife refuge to bring tourists to Sanibel.

"People count on these kinds of wonderful attractions to bring people like myself here," Smith said.

Tarpon Bay Explorers is a private company that operates canoe and kayak rentals, as well as guided boat tours through the federal waters and property of the refuge. They had to lay off about a dozen people during the 2014 government shutdown.

Johnson hopes it doesn't come to that in 2018.

"The government's got to compromise and get a budget going," he said.

A spokeswoman with "Ding" Darling told Fox 4 that they have no indication one way or another if the refuge will be closing this weekend, but that they are preparing for the possibility.