By: Bob Fala Outdoors Columnist
October 16, 2013
Outdoor folks are “falling prey” to the “political theatre” of the government shutdown. At least, that’s what some of the nation’s leading sportsmen’s organizations are calling the government shutdown. That is, for its varying range of impacts to critical public land access at an equally critical time of year, select hunting, fishing or even crabbing seasons!
Gordon Robertson called the closure of access to the rather massive U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge System “ludicrous.” Hunting is statutorily determined to be a priority use on these and other federal lands. The Logan native and former WVDNR official now speaks as Vice-President of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and on the behalf of all that have “fallen prey” to the shutdown.
In their scathing news release on the pitiful shutdown situation, ASA ponders as to what’s next, the closure of the national waters? But don’t laugh; the economically important Alaskan king crab season and its associated reality TV show (Deadliest Catch) were being jeopardized for the inability of “non-essential” furloughed staff to issue the proper crabbing permits.
What could hunters, anglers, birders and hikers harm on these vast holdings? They routinely don’t encounter any federal employees in their quest for recreation. Yet, federal enforcement personnel were out and about erecting closure signs and asking people to leave from here, there and even up at West Virginia’s own Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Tucker County.
Seconding Robertson’s sentiment in a Charleston Gazette piece by Boone County native John McCoy, Curtis Taylor of WVDNR also wonders what’s next. Might there just be a closure of the Interstate Highway System under the same bizarre set of strange and punitive logic? In yet another hot under the collar news release from the Columbus, Ohio based U. S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA), the closure was labeled as both an illegal action and “political theatre at its worst.”
Just as there is massive political confusion over the shutdown in Washington, the precise effects here in the West Virginia outdoors are still a little foggy. The Ohio River Islands and Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuges remained closed. The status of the National Park Service lands in the New and Gauley National Rivers turf was unclear, though the visitor centers are closed. West Virginia’s million acres of national forest were an apparently un-enforceable open, but its campgrounds are all closed.
A current WVDNR release indicates that they will not be able to fall trout stock Rock Cliff Lake in Hardy County scheduled as early as October 15 unless the Forest Service unlocks a presently gated access road. Stay tuned and with high hopes for a quick resolution. But in the meantime, West Virginia state parks, forests and wildlife areas are open. They may also be the best bet for current conditions and status on any particular federal areas within the specific WVDNR Districts.
This year’s October Super storm may not be a Sandy, but she’s kicking up a pretty good-sized political wake of her own along with some choice unprintable names.