Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Well, it was bound to affect us sooner or later. As part of the gubment shutdown, the USFWS has "closed" all 561 wildlife refuges. Technically it's a bit difficult to close a 200,000 acre refuge since it's not exactly a storefront that you can lock and turn on the alarm, but they're giving it the old government try. Much of this land is hunted by waterfowlers and upland shooters, many of whom may not realize the land is closed until they show up to hunt, and the decision comes only days after the Dept of the Interior announced the expansion of hunting and fishing on a number of wildlife refuges. Oh, the irony.

I'm not normally one for flouting the law, especially as it pertains to hunting and fishing, but to deny access to something that I've paid for and continue to pay for - as far as I know we're not getting a credit on our taxes for the period that portions of the government aren't open for business - falls outside the lines of reasonable decisions. Other than periodic maintenance and agricultural management of these lands throughout the year and visitor centers in some locations there is no daily cost or upkeep associated with them. You can cease these operations without necessitating the closure of the property. The only remaining daily or weekly cost would be the federal game wardens who patrol the properties, whose salaries you could eliminate by sending them home during the lockout.

But that would make a little too much sense. Apparently federal game wardens are still on the job and will ticket anyone caught trying to access the refuges through federally-owned access points, which begs the question of what is really being achieved by closing the refuges? I should note that even if these wardens were furloughed, they would most likely receive back pay for the time they were out of work, so we might as well leave them on the job.

Unfortunately, larger organized hunts such as the Minnesota Governor's Pheasant Hunt will lose some hunting areas, unless of course the governor wants to give a finger to Congress. Where's Jesse Ventura when you need him? Small groups and solo hunters, however, shouldn't let this deter them from using the land, and if confronted by a federal warden, an oops I didn't know or even a c'mon man, I just want to hunt should be enough to get you off with a warning as long as you haven't parked next to a Closed sign. These wardens don't like the shutdown any more than we do and generally support the hunters who use this land in an ethical manner.

Interestingly, the Wisonconsin DNR feels that access to rivers that run through refuges cannot be restricted by the feds and is encouraging hunters to proceed. The linked article mentions that some guidance on this is expected from the USFWS by the end of this week. Interesting to see if the "guidance" contradicts the WI DNR's position.

Personally I think our elected representatives from both sides of the aisle are doing a sorry job of moving the country forward and I continue to question why we can't do away with the political party system altogether. Candidates can run on their own merits and answer to their constituents without fear of pissing off the party machine and there's little doubt in my mind that showdowns like the one we're currently enjoying would exist only in history books, probably in a chapter titled "Can You Believe Our Country Was This Stupid?" Alright, enough, enough, I know it's not a political blog. Off the soapbox. For now.

Ed: National forests and BLM land will remain open to hunting, Somehow, somewhere Washington draws a distinction between them and wildlife refuges.

Ed #2: On Friday, Oct 11, USFWS announced that they would open certain Waterfowl Production Areas to hunting. Wildlife refuges, however, remain closed.


  1. Agree 100%...this ridiculousness has profound effects on the rest of us. Cooler heads need to prevail! Just sad that it has come to this. Keep 'em coming!


  2. Yes. I can believe our country is this collectively stupid.

    George Washington:

    However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

    GEORGE WASHINGTON, Farewell Address, Sep. 17, 1796