While most eyes in government are on Congress and how it handles the ongoing debt crisis, some Interior Department officials are studying what options they have if a "lapse in appropriations" arrives at midnight September 30.
What those legal consultations reveal will shed light on whether the National Park System shuts down in entirety on Tuesday, or whether some areas remain open.
In an email to all Interior Department employees, including those in the National Park Service, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Wednesday wrote that "(T)he Administration continues to believe that a lapse in funding should not occur. There is enough time for Congress to prevent a lapse in appropriations and the Administration is willing to work with Congress to enact a short-term continuing resolution to fund critical Government operations and allow Congress the time to complete the full year 2014 appropriations."
"However," she went on, "prudent management requires that we continue to prepare for all contingencies, including the possibility that a lapse could occur at the end of the month.
According to the secretary's email, under a budget impasse, the department's "actions and decisions about what operations continue are governed by legal opinions issued by the Attorney General and the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice. "
"In consultation with our Solicitor’s Office, we are working to determine which of our activities may continue under these legal requirements," Secretary Jewell wrote. "Similarly, we are working to determine which employees would continue to report to work in the event of a lapse in funding and which employees would be placed on furlough."