Conservation Groups Ask to Keep Public Lands Open as Government Shutdown Looms

The shutdown could close millions of acres of federal lands just as hunting seasons get into full swing. Cavan Images / Adobe Stock

A coalition of major conservation organizations is petitioning the secretaries of Agriculture and Interior to keep federal lands open during what appears to be an imminent government shutdown.

While the full list of signatories to the petition isn’t finalized, the letter reviewed by Outdoor Life specifically asks the federal land-management agencies to “maintain access for sportsmen and women to the maximum extent possible across the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and U.S. Forest Service.”

“On behalf of the millions of hunters, wildlife, and outdoor enthusiasts from all 50 states represented by our organizations, we write you today to express our deep concern about the impending threat of a government shutdown, which could have severe consequences for hunters, outdoor enthusiasts, and the conservation efforts that rely on federal public land,” the draft letter states.

Federal agencies will shut down Sunday unless a spending bill is passed by Congress. But as sundown approached Washington, D.C. on Friday, no deal seemed likely to win approval.

The letter from groups such as Delta Waterfowl, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, and Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation asks federal land managers to consider their lands open unless specifically closed in the case of a shutdown, which could last several weeks.

“To provide clarity to sportsmen and women, we would ask that a list [of lands that are open unless closed] be made publicly available to communicate those units of land and water that are closed as a result of the shutdown,” the letter states. “With hunting seasons across the United States ramping up, many disabled and veteran hunts, as well as youth hunts, are occurring on federal properties in the coming days and weeks. These lands are places where sportsmen and women can connect with nature, engage in traditional outdoor activities, and contribute to overall conservation efforts.”

Authors of the letter further note that because hunting “is largely a self-regulating activity that occurs without direct supervision across millions of acres and millions of collective hunting days a year… the vast majority of public lands and waters for these time-honored traditions should not be impacted by the potential shutdown.”

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The letter is addressed to Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture—which manages the U.S. Forest Service—and Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior, which oversees the BLM and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, among other land-management agencies.

A final version of the letter, with a wide range of signatories from most major conservation groups, was expected to be transferred to Vilsack and Haaland late Friday evening.

The post Conservation Groups Ask to Keep Public Lands Open as Government Shutdown Looms appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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