By KATIE TERHUNE
The government shutdown threw a search for a missing Boise hiker into limbo Tuesday as Craters of the Moon National Monument staff were forced into furloughs and Jo Elliott-Blakeslee’s family issued a plea for more volunteers.
Ted Stout, chief of interpretation and education for the monument, said that there were four searchers scouring the monument Monday. Tuesday morning, after the shutdown went into effect, there are none.
Most of the volunteers and staff from other parks who mobilized during the first days of the search have gone home, Stout said.
“We’re basically left with park staff at this point, with some help with the Butte County Sheriff’s Office,” he said.
That’s about to change, too. All 16 of the Craters of the Moon staff were ordered to go on furlough when Congress was unable to reach an agreement to stave off the shutdown. Three employees will remain to keep essential functions like utilities running, although it is unclear if they’ll be paid for their work, Stout said.
Authorities originally had misidentified the body found last week as that of Elliot-Blakeslee.
The family of 63-year-old Elliott-Blakeslee put out a call for experienced hikers to volunteer for the search late Monday night.
Craters of the Moon is asking staff if anyone is able to stay and volunteer for the search as well, Stout said.
In a statement, the missing woman’s family thanked volunteers, park staff and the sheriff’s office for their help, and put out a call for experienced hikers to continue the search even as park operations shut down.
“We realize the chance of Dr. Jo surviving in temperatures that have dipped below freezing are slim,” the statement read. “However, we are not ruling out the outside chance that she has found shelter in a cave or under vegetation. Either way, we are committed to bringing her home and are actively recruiting volunteers with backcountry experience to keep the search going.”
Authorities originally had misidentified the body found last week as that of Elliot-Blakeslee. National Park Service spokeswoman Traci Weaver said the Butte County coroner on Friday identified the body found Wednesday as that of Blakeslee’s hiking partner, Amy Linkert, whose 70th birthday was Thursday. She appeared to have died from exposure.
The two women were last seen in Arco on Sept. 19. They were reported missing Sept. 23 when Elliot-Blakeslee, a physician, didn’t show up for work at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario, Ore.