Washington, Oregon hunters will be shut out of some federal areas

Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldOctober 10, 2013 

Refuge Closure Government

A sign recently posted at the entry of the Peninsula Unit of the McNary Wildlife Refuge off Hansen Loop Road in Burbank warns motorists about its closure because of the federal government shutdown. The popular waterfowl and upland bird hunting location won’t be available for Saturday’s season opener.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

The federal government shutdown could interfere with hunters' plans as duck and other hunting seasons open Saturday in Eastern Washington and Oregon.

Policies vary among agencies on whether hunting will be allowed on federal land. But state land remains open and an option for hunters shut out of a favored place on federal land.

Absent a resolution to the government shutdown by Saturday, the Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge Complex will remain closed to visitors, including hunters.

"We really don't have adequate staff to maintain safety and protect resources," said Jeff Howland, deputy project leader at the refuge complex.

The refuge complex, headquartered in Burbank, includes the Hanford Reach National Monument and its Saddle Mountain Wildlife Refuge and the Columbia, McNary, Umatilla, Toppenish, Cold Springs, McKay Creek and Conboy Lake national wildlife refuges.

Duck hunters will not be able to use popular spots on the McNary and Umatilla refuges, Howland said. There also will not be duck hunting on the Hanford Reach National Monument and the Toppenish, Cold Springs and Columbia refuges.

The refuges also will be closed to other waterfowl and upland game hunting, including pheasant and quail hunting on the Hanford Reach National Monument and the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.

Although most staff at the refuges have been furloughed, U.S. Fish and Wildlife law enforcement officers continue to work, and state wildlife officers also have authority on the refuge and national monument land.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is allowing access to its designated wildlife areas, but developed recreation areas, including some campgrounds that hunters might have planned to use, have been closed to the public.

Hunters will need to read signs closely to determine where access is allowed, said Gina Baltrusch, spokeswoman for the Corps' Walla Walla District.

They also can call ahead to the numbers listed at http://1.usa.gov/GIxgWW, on the right side of the page and under links to individual properties on the left side of the page.

The Bureau of Land Management is allowing hunting, consistent with state law. However, campgrounds and other recreation facilities are closed.

All offices of the U.S. Forest Service have been closed, making specific information difficult to obtain. However, the Forest Service has posted a statement on its website saying all recreation sites are closed.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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