Due to the Government Shutdown all National Wildlife Refuges and National Parks are closed. This shutdown is wreaking havoc from Washington State to Florida and beyond.
Not only are refuge visitors put off by the closure of the National Wildlife Refuges and National Parks, the number of employees that work these facilities is staggering, and they are suffering even greater losses. According to the Department of the Interior Contingency Plan for Operations in the Absence of FY 2014 Appropriations, 7,751 US Fish & Wildlife employees as well as 21,379 National Park Service employees will be furloughed.
Birders and hunters alike are feeling the repercussions of our legislators not doing their jobs. At the Coastal Delaware National Wildlife Refuge Complex a youth waterfowl hunt scheduled for Saturday, October 5th was cancelled and an early group of birders showed up Wednesday morning at Prime Hook NWR to closed gates. Read full article.
“The federal shutdown hits Vermont during one of the state’s busiest seasons for hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing,” said Patrick Berry, Fish & Wildlife commissioner. “This is a time when rural communities across Vermont really count on the local revenues generated by hunting and fishing activities.” Read full article.
Shutdown effects are far reaching in Montana. “It’s just an extremely disappointing and sad reality that we have to face, and no one on my staff is happy about this,” said Rick Potts, director of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Montana. A quarter million people visit the refuge annually, and about 75 percent are hunters or elk viewers, he said. “It’s not inconceivable, if this would stretch on say though the month of October, that tens of thousands of people will have their plans disrupted,” Potts said. Read the full story.
The National Wildlife Refuge Association gives us a list of the top five National Wildlife Refuges impacted by the government shutdown with this opening statement: “Fall migration is well underway and hunting season is just beginning. The nation’s National Wildlife Refuge System, with nearly 46 million annual visitors, offers prime wildlife viewing, hunting and fishing opportunities, so this time of year is particularly important to local merchants, outfitters, guides and other businesses that rely on refuge visitors.” Read the full story to see their top 5 list.
The Director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service , Dan Ashe, summed it up this way, ““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. This is difficult news for the families, birdwatchers, hunters and anglers, and recreationists who enjoy the great outdoors on the refuges – as well as for the many local businesses who depend on the tourism and outdoor recreation economy they generate. I think it’s most difficult for the thousands of furloughed Service employees who are impacted in carrying out their mission to protect our nation’s resources and providing for their families.”
Main impacts to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from the lapse in appropriated funding include:
- All 561 National wildlife refuges are closed to public access. Visitor centers and other buildings are closed
- All activities on federal lands and in public buildings are canceled. This includes hunting and fishing activities on refuge lands
- No permitting work or consultations will occur with respect to the Endangered Species Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species, the Lacey Act or the National Environmental Policy Act
- The shutdown will affect more than 7,000 Service employees, who are furloughed until an appropriation is passed
- Employees and others may not volunteer their services on behalf of Service functions or on federal lands
National Wildlife Refuge Benefits to the American People1:
- In total, 447 refuges, or about 80 percent of the System’s units, provide natural buffers against urbanization and other development pressures, thereby preserving undeveloped lands and airspace that enable military units to execute their vital training missions
- Refuges provide more than $32.3 billion in natural goods and services each year – a return of more than $65 for every $1 appropriated by Congress. These services include buffering coastal communities from storm surges, absorbing floodwaters, stabilizing soils, filtering pollutants from municipal water supplies, pollinating food crops, and controlling pest populations
- Conservation easements on nearly 3.5 million acres of refuge lands allow many private landowners to keep their ranches and farms in production. Without the easements, high inheritance taxes can force their heirs to sell the land for development
- The Refuge System frequently conducts controlled burns that not only improve wildlife habitat, but also reduce hazardous fuel loads that can put communities at greater risk from devastating and costly wildfires
- Federal regulations require twin-engine transoceanic flights to stay within 180 minutes of an airport, and Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge’s Henderson Airfield is one of only a handful of emergency landing sites available for transpacific flights
Recreation on America’s refuges is estimated to generate between $2.1 and $4.2 billion in annual sales and support approximately 34,000 U.S. jobs in local communities alone
Refuge employees often double as first responders in their local communities following natural disasters, during medical emergencies, and after accidents
Each year, approximately 769,000 students and teachers visit national wildlife refuges, where educational programs introduce youth to the natural world
The National Wildlife Refuge Association now has an action alert for the shutdown. You can easily send an email to your legislator asking them to stop the shutdown and open the refuges.
References:1Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement