Federal Shutdown Could Foul Up Waterfowl Opener

By Tom Banse

The partial government shutdown is highlighting all the different ways our lives intersect with the federal government. One category of affected people you might not think of is hunters. The federal shutdown has closed off some prime hunting grounds on the eve of duck season.

The federal budget impasse has caused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to close public access to all National Wildlife Refuges. Those include popular hunting spots like the Deer Flats refuge in southwestern Idaho, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington and the Upper Klamath and Umatilla refuges in Oregon.

Lifelong waterfowl hunter Kurt Snyder of Rochester, Washington says the timing of the government shutdown is rotten; the duck opener is just around the corner.

Kurt Snyder: "Refuges get hunted - even though they're regulated - they do get hunted quite a bit. A lot of people depend on them, basically because of their geographic location."

Snyder says if federal refuges stay closed, that will increase crowding on adjacent state lands on opening weekend.

Duck season opens on October 12 in most of Idaho and many places in Washington. In Oregon, waterfowl season opens this Saturday. Oregon is already in the midst of deer season. The general deer season opens Oct. 10 in Idaho and two days later in Washington.

"We feel that this land is public land... we own it and we think we're being unfairly looked upon when they close it for hunting," said Snyder. "There's plenty of people out there volunteer-wise who would man the (check) stations and take care of the hunters." National forest and BLM lands remain open for hunting and recreation provided the relevant access road is open. But there's a high probability there, the campgrounds and restrooms are closed.

“Closing off public access to our national wildlife refuges and public lands is the last thing we want to do, but is consistent with operations called for during a government shutdown,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe in a statement Tuesday.


U.S. agency shutdown contingency plans:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/contingency-plans

Bureau of Land Management FAQ:
http://www.doi.gov/shutdown/fy2014/upload/BLM-FAQ.pdf

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