Wildlife hunting refuges open up again during Washington shutdown

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced some furloughed staff will be returning to at least 38 wildlife hunting refuges across the country for the next 30 days.

“While many of our refuges have remained accessible, but not staffed, the extended lapse in federal appropriations is impacting both our ability to serve the public and to protect natural resources under our care in some places,” stated Margaret Everson, deputy director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (FWS) according to the Associated Press.

The funding is expected to come from previously allocated funds unused from the previous year, and it is estimated that 240 employees can be brought back for the next 30 days. During previous shutdowns, national parks and refuges have been shuttered, but this time the Trump administration has plans to leave the federally protected parks mainly unstaffed and open to the public. The wildlife refuges being opened and restaffed include Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains – the scene of winter elk-hunting, as well as refuges in Hawaii and Florida.

The reopening of the parks will “provide opportunities, including hunting,” correspondence from the FWS confirmed. Even though visitor centers in the 567 refuges have been closed, access has remained open and hunters are still able to access refuges under the shutdown.

“If anything, hunting access without full levels of staffing may pose a danger to the ‘safety of human life.'”

The 2019 Anti-Deficiency Act stipulates emergency funds can be provided for “emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property,” but do not include on the regular functions of government which would not “threaten the safety of human life or the protection of property.”

“Hunting access is not needed to protect ‘property’ in this case (being wildlife). I am sure the wildlife do not feel protected by being shot,” wrote Jeff Ruch, President of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

So the parks are a mess, and employees will be back cleaning up while allowing wildlife hunting to go on with little oversight.

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