U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Reopens Waterfowl Production Areas
Editor’s Note: This news release was issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday, October 11th. The re-opening of federal Waterfowl Production Areas is important to conservationists (who’ve paid to create them and use them in the form of Federal Duck Stamp purchases) and public land upland hunters who utilize them heavily during open seasons, including seasons opening tomorrow in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota (residents only). Thanks to Pheasants Forever members, pheasant hunters and waterfowlers for making their voices heard through Pheasants Forever by sending us emails, phone calls and through social media. All those messages were directed to our efforts in Washington, D.C. to fight for the re-opening of WPAs for the benefit of all sportsmen and women during the peak of use.
Due to the ongoing lapse in Congressional appropriations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made the decision to close all facilities and lands to public use. The closure comes at an extremely difficult time with hunting seasons just underway, fall migratory bird migrations at their peak, and hundreds of communities forced to cancel events as part of National Wildlife Refuge Week. With approximately 78 percent of its employees furloughed, we determined it would be difficult for the remaining, non-furloughed workforce to ensure the safety of facilities, lands, and resources, in a manner that incurs no further financial obligation to the U.S. Government.
Despite limited staffing, the Service has undertaken an assessment to determine what, if any, potential exists to open lands to public use consistent with our obligations under the government-wide shutdown. It has been determined that allowing public access to Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) will not incur further government expenditure or obligation and is allowable under a government shutdown. Therefore, effective immediately, all WPAs will reopen to public use.
As the shutdown continues, if the Service determines that maintaining the WPAs in open status, individually or cumulatively, would likely cause Service expenditures or obligations to be made in violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act, the Service will close public access.
Additional information about the Service’s efforts to support conservation on national wildlife refuges can be found at http://www.fws.gov/ which will be operational after the shutdown ends. Shutdown-related information continues to be available at www.DOI.gov/shutdown.
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