Craters of the Moon gets 10 employees to aide in search

ARCO, Idaho (KBOI) -- Officials at Craters of the Moon National Monument are about to get more boots on the ground to search for a missing Boise woman.

The monument has 19 employees and all but three were about to be placed on furlough due to the government shutdown. On Wednesday, however, officials there say the park has received permission to keep 10 workers under the "excepted" status during the search.

Officials have been looking for 63-year-old Jo Elliott-Blakeslee for about a week. Her hiking partner, 69-year-old Amy Linkert, was found dead last Wednesday.

"The probability of finding her (Elliott-Blakeslee) alive has diminished, but we are committed to continuing the search until we find Dr. Jo and bring closure to her family, friends and all those who have been involved in this search," said Dan Buckley, park superintendent.

With 16 staff employees being placed on furlough, Ted Stout, chief of interpretation and education at Craters, told KBOI 2News that no one was looking for 63-year-old Jo Elliott-Blakeslee Tuesday morning.

"It's pretty much just park staff that are continuing the search," Stout said. "But we're also faced with the government shutdown -- we've been busy with that."

Federal workers are not allowed to volunteer to do their jobs during a shutdown because U.S. law says they can't do any work that has not been allocated funding.

The search effort had already begun being scaled back due to rescue agencies being called back to their respective headquarters and poor weather earlier in the week. Only three staff members are at the park monitoring infrastructure resources.

Meanwhile, family members have called for experienced hikers to help join the search.

On Monday, Elliott-Blakeslee's family released a statement thanking all those who have helped in the search, and saying that while they realize the chances of finding Elliott-Blakeslee alive are growing slim, they remain hopeful. They also noted that the search area is in rugged and often dangerous territory and prone to unpredictable weather.

"Either way, we are committed to bringing her home and are actively recruiting volunteers with backcountry experience to keep the search going. But we will not chance injury or loss of searchers," the family's prepared statement said. "In that vein, at a minimum, those interested in participating should be able to hike 10 to 12 miles and climb 1,000 feet at a time in treacherous terrain."