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Shutdown may close waterfowl protection areas, other federal hunting lands

LITCHFIELD, Minn. — Waterfowl and other hunters will lose access to public lands that are known as waterfowl production areas if a government shutdown becomes reality.

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The shutdown would also close the Big Stone National Refuge, headquartered in Odessa. It covers 11,521 acres, much of which is open to a variety of hunting and other recreational activities.

The waterfowl production areas are popular destinations for all types of hunting. The shutdown could come at the worst of time for waterfowl hunters, who use the areas for access to wetlands and larger water bodies frequented by migrating waterfowl. Minnesota’s waterfowl season is closed in the central and south zones, but resumes Saturday in the central zone and Oct. 12 in the south zone. U.S. Highway 212 is the dividing line between the zones.

Tina Shaw, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Minnesota, on Monday said that contingency plans call for closing access to all of the waterfowl production lands in the event of a government shutdown. Hunting and other recreational activities would not be allowed on the lands.

The affected lands would probably not be posted as closed to hunting since there will be no staff to carry out the assignment, Shaw said. She said staff will likely place information on the district office door and it will be available on the U.S. Department of Interior’s website.

Hunters in central Minnesota will lose access to 36,000 acres on 152 parcels of waterfowl production areas that are administered by the Litchfield district office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

They are located in Kandiyohi, McLeod, Stearns, Meeker, Renville, Wright and Todd counties.

The shutdown will also mean that only a “skeleton’’ staff will remain in place at the district office in Litchfield. Staffing will only be available to provide emergency services, such as fire suppression and law enforcement.

Along with the loss of hunting, the office is involved in a variety of conservation and science research projects. All of the projects, from work to acquire conservation easements to research, would be suspended.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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