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Idaho hiker's body found after search hampered by government shutdown

By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - The body of a missing hiker has been recovered at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in central Idaho after a month-long search hampered by the recent U.S. government shutdown.

The remains of Jodean Elliott-Blakeslee, 63, were spotted on Tuesday evening during a helicopter search of the vast lava fields at the National Park Service site where she and her hiking partner, Amelia Linkert, were reported missing on September 24.

Searchers last month found Linkert dead from exposure. An Idaho coroner is determining how Elliott-Blakeslee perished, park officials said.

At its height, the search for the Boise-based physician drew helicopters, dog teams and as many 100 individuals from other U.S. parks, but those efforts were scaled back in part because of a congressional budget impasse that halted government operations on October 1. The government reopened last week after Congress passed a temporary spending measure that President Barack Obama signed into law.

Ted Stout and several other Craters of the Moon workers furloughed during the shutdown nevertheless continued to search for Elliott-Blakeslee across the Idaho park's 750,000 acres of volcanic rifts, cinder cones and underground tunnels carved by ancient lava flows.

"We can't let her down now. This needs to continue," Stout, the park's chief of interpretation and education, said the day after he and park officials were laid off.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman; Editing by Steve Gorman and Lisa Shumaker)

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