State shutdown ends

The shutdown is over.

Fishing and hunting licenses are for sale again, and state parks
are in various stages of opening. DNR and other state employees are
back on the job, and state conservation officers are back to their
regular routines.

While people, rightfully, gnash their teeth about the agreement
that got things rolling again – borrowed money, essentially –
there’s plenty worth noting.

First off, we’ll have hunting seasons this fall. And based on a
provision in the newly passed Game and Fish Bill, we’ll likely be
able to hunt ducks a week earlier.

The DNR website is back up and running, and includes a nifty little
feature that tells visitors what’s open and what’s still closed. Of
course, it’s going to take some time for everything to be running
like it did pre-shutdown. Remember, shutdown planning took a month
or more, so you can’t expect everything to return normal with the
flick of a switch.

Still, just hours after state employees returned to the job on
Thursday morning, at least a handful of state parks already were
fully or partially open.

And there’s now no excuse for fishing without a fishing
license.

If there’s anything that really struck me during the shutdown, it
was the way the fishing license drama played out. Based partially
on private conversations with conservation officers, but mostly on
what very obviously was occurring, they weren’t dealing harshly
with people who didn’t have a license. That was the right move and
even if orders didn’t come down from on high to handle it that way,
COs should be commended for their handling of it.

But we’re probably lucky the shutdown ended when it did, because
the situation could have become ugly. Counties and others started
pushing DNR officials about how they were handling people fishing
without a license. And then there was an outcry when the agency
said it would still enforce the law, which requires people who fish
to have a license.

As far as I’m concerned, the DNR was pushed into a corner and had
to fall back on state law. Shutdown or not, you can’t have a
resource agency telling people it is OK to break the law.

Sometimes it’s better to just leave well enough alone.

Check out this week’s and next week’s Outdoor News for a
full report on the shutdown’s end.

Categories: Joe Albert

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