Waterfowl production areas, other federal lands, closed

Joe AlbertNow into its fourth day, the shutdown of the federal government already has had a variety of trickle-down affects.

Among them: Hunters and anglers confused about where they can go.

Per Department of the Interior fact sheets, all federal lands are closed to public access. That includes refuges and waterfowl production areas, those protected lands so important to waterfowl hunters this time of year.

Many of the questions seem to arise from the Mississippi River, or from places like Lake Kabetogama, which is inside Voyageurs National Park. The gist of it is this: You can access those waters, so long as you don’t do so via federal property.

So let’s say you want to hunt the Mississippi River, which is part of the Upper Mississippi National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. Here’s what a release from the Wisconsin DNR, which quotes chief legal counsel Tim Andryk, says: “… federally-controlled lands, including certain islands in the river, will remain closed until reopened by federal authorities. But the waters of the Mississippi River, and other rivers, are open for public use, including waterfowl hunting. Hunters will need to use state-managed launch sites, or private access points if they have permission, to get onto the river.”

People hunting deer and waterfowl likely already have noticed their favorite waterfowl production areas have been closed. If the shutdown continues for another week – Minnesota's pheasant opener is Oct. 12 – even more hunters could be affected, as WPAs are a favorite of rooster hunters.

According to a variety of sources, national forest lands remain open, though staffed-areas such as visitor centers are closed.

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