09 October

Public outrage over the government shutdown of our refuges.

Arkansas is home to ten national wildlife refuges that are critical in protecting a wide variety of wildlife habitat, providing sportsman needed access to hunting and fishing opportunities as well as providing much needed economic benefits to the communities that surround them. This continuing government shutdown has impacted us greatly and serves to remind us of how vitally important these conservation lands are to the hunters of our great state.

The fact that Washington bureaucrats can direct our wildlife refuges to close visitor centers, national, regional, and local offices where manpower is required is one thing, but to close gates to refuge roads that simply provide access to undeveloped forest lands comes across as spiteful.

I have found inconsistent policies regarding public access to forests after reviewing the various government agency contingency plans for this current shutdown. For instance forest lands of the National Parks Service and Wildlife Refuges have been “closed to public access” yet contingency plans of the National Forest Service and BLM make no such statements and are not denying access to undeveloped forest areas during this shutdown. The BLM simply refers to “Visitor Management” on page 2 of their plan by stating they will close visitor centers and “post signs that no patrols, maintenance...” or other support will be provided to visitors.

I have a simple common sense solution. Adopt language in our refuge contingency plans that allow undeveloped forested areas of our refuges(like the National forest and BLM) to remain open in the event of future government shutdowns. You just know that this is going to be an annual event in Washington. That way future government shutdowns of refuge offices, visitor centers and other facilities can take place without affecting the forest lands that must remain open for the enjoyment of Arkansas hunters and other outdoor enthusiast.

Done..solved!  Now the Washington bureaucrats can go back to entertaining us with their incessant squabbling.

Jim Taylor

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