Hunters es­cape shut­down is­sues

Oil and gas de­vel­op­ment in fed wa­ters also not feel­ing the pinch

Albuquerque Journal - - NATION & WORLD - BY ELLEN KNICKMEYER

WASH­ING­TON — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice is di­rect­ing dozens of wildlife refuges to re­turn staffers to work to make sure hunters and oth­ers have ac­cess de­spite the gov­ern­ment shut­down, ac­cord­ing to an email ob­tained Wednes­day by The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The par­tial restaffing of 38 wildlife refuges is an­ger­ing wildlife groups, who ac­cuse the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of try­ing to min­i­mize the pub­lic im­pact of the shut­down.

In an email sent Tues­day, Mar­garet Ever­son, prin­ci­pal deputy di­rec­tor of the Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice, cites “op­por­tu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing hunt­ing” that are be­ing lost in the shut­down.

Oil, gas staffers to stay on job

Ever­son ad­vises in the email that 38 wildlife refuges around the coun­try will bring back some fur­loughed staff us­ing car­ry­over funds.

“… 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,” Ever­son wrote.

Ever­son did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to an email from The AP seek­ing com­ment.

The In­te­rior De­part­ment’s shut­down plan says a small ma­jor­ity of agency staffers in charge of per­mit­ting and over­see­ing oil and gas de­vel­op­ment in fed­eral wa­ters will be kept at work, no mat­ter how long the shut­down lasts, “as they are es­sen­tial for life and safety.”

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has em­pha­sized pub­lic use on pub­lic lands, es­pe­cially by hunters, and oil and gas de­vel­op­ers.

Im­pos­si­ble to stew­ard

On Wednes­day, sev­eral or­ga­ni­za­tions urged the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to keep na­tional parks, wildlife refuges and other pub­lic lands closed to the pub­lic dur­ing the shut­down.

“It is sim­ply im­pos­si­ble to stew­ard these shared Amer­i­can trea­sures prop­erly, leav­ing thou­sands of lands and wa­ters ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic with no staff on site, even for an emer­gency,” the groups wrote in a let­ter.

Ac­cord­ing to the email, the wildlife refuges be­ing restaffed in­clude Ok­la­homa’s Wi­chita Moun­tains, scene of an an­nual win­ter elk hunt.

If ap­pli­cants who won the roughly 300 per­mits granted this year don’t get to hunt by the end of Jan­uary, they may have to wait un­til next win­ter.

“We’ve had to have pa­tience. Wait and see is al­ways hard,” Rod Smith, a bi­ol­o­gist with Ok­la­homa’s De­part­ment of Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion said. “Then … it will make it more dif­fi­cult next year when we’re car­ry­ing peo­ple over.”

ADAM KEALOHA CAUSEY/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The U.S. FIsh and Wildlife Ser­vice is di­rect­ing dozens of wildlife refuges to make sure that hunters and some oth­ers have ac­cess, de­spite the gov­ern­ment shut­down.

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