ONALSKA, WISCONSIN (WXOW) – Furloughed federal employees returned to work this week after the 16-day partial government shutdown came to an end.
Staff at the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge said there's a lot of re-prioritizing and catch-up. But they're just happy to be back to work.
Friday morning, the refuge was particularly busy.
Intern Emily Bissing-Olsen said she missed that.
"I had to start going outside just to look at things and say, 'Wait, what is that? I'm not sure. I want to go look that up.' Because, you know, those are the kind of things that I just miss being surrounded by," Bissing-Olsen said.
It's day two back at work since the partial government shutdown ended. By noon, 35 people already walked through the refuge's doors.
Dave Collins came in to buy the senior park pass he hoped to purchase two weeks ago.
"Now I can go on my trip, I can see all the parks I want," he said.
Visitors Center Volunteer Ben Hoppe came in to set up a presentation.
"This is something I do for fun. This is something I like doing. And I didn't get to do that for a couple of hours a week like I had been," he said.
Visitor Services Manager Paula Ogden-Muse said she's been ready to come back for 16 days.
"The uniform was ironed. I was ready to go. The briefcase was packed," Ogden-Muse said.
Ogden-Muse was one of eight staff members furloughed. She was mandated to change her phone and email response, explaining why she couldn't answer.
But he biggest frustration was not being able to answer visitor's questions face-to-face.
"When you can't do that, its – you're sort of lost. It's like, okay well now what do I do; because it's engrained in you. It's part of your life. It's how you identify yourself," she said.
Now back at work, Ogden-Muse is rescheduling and reconnecting with the land she loves and the people who enjoy it.
"I hope we don't have to go through it again," she said.
Federal workers furloughed during the shutdown will get retroactive paychecks for their days out the office.
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