Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Shutdown shutters national parks, refuges

Washington — It didn’t take long for the effects of the federal government shutdown, which began Tuesday morning, to start being felt.

There were messages from the various federal agencies’ social media accounts that updates would cease until the shutdown ended.

There were press releases from national parks and refuges, announcing they’d be closed until further notice.

And on the voicemails of some federal employees were messages like this one on that of Jim Leach, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s refuge supervisor in Minnesota: “Unfortunately, due to the budget gridlock in Washington, all federal operations are ceasing today, and myself and many other federal employees are furloughed until further notice.”

As a result, all of the nation’s 401 national parks were closed. Ditto national wildlife refuges.

“All activities will be cancelled on federal lands and public buildings until the government reopens,” according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fact sheet. “This includes hunting and fishing activities on public lands.”

Additionally, the USFWS said: “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 Lacy Act or the National Environmental Policy Act.”

The shutdown occurred when Congress failed to pass bills to fund the federal government in the new fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

Some federal government functions continued, including “those necessary to respond to emergencies, perform essential functions, and to protect human life or personal property,” according to a news release from the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge.

Steve Karel, the refuge manager, was in his office early Tuesday, but just long enough to shut it down.

“The refuge will be completely closed,” he said.

County roads through the refuge, for example, will remain open, but “people shouldn’t be out on the refuge.”

State natural resources officials, meanwhile, were still in the process of determining exactly what the federal shutdown meant to them.

“I don’t know if we know all the implications yet,” said Ed Boggess, director of the DNR Fish and Wildlife Division.

The state had been assured reimbursements under the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration and Sport Fish Restoration acts wouldn’t be affected. Last year, the state received from those two sources $28 million in reimbursement on eligible expenditures.

Partnership programs like Reinvest in Minnesota/Wetlands Reserve Program also weren’t affected immediately, said Bill Penning, conservation easement section manager for the Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources.

That’s because this summer’s sign-up period already is done. RIM is a state program, while WRP is a federal program.

“In the short term, it won’t affect us,” Penning said. “If this drags out, it will.”

Following are highlights from a Department of the Interior fact sheet:

Services that remain operational:

  • Law enforcement, including the U.S. Park Police and emergency and disaster assistance
  • Firefighting and monitoring
  • Border and coastal protection and surveillance
  • Limited management of ongoing projects that are funded from non-lapsing appropriations
  • Access to through roads

Services and programs that will be closed:

  • All national parks will be closed and secured
  • Visitor centers and other facilities will be closed
  • Education programs and special events will be cancelled
  • Permits for special events will be rescinded
  • Guests staying in hotels and campgrounds will be notified of the closure and given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park.

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