It’s Shutdown Season: As hunting seasons open across the country, Congress is shutting it downThe fall is undeniably my favorite time of year. The sweltering summer is fading, the shadows are getting longer, leaves are turning Technicolor – and, most importantly for me, hunting seasons begin to open.
All across the country, sportsmen and women are taking to the field and carrying forth traditions that are deeply ingrained in our national identity. The North American Model of Wildlife Management is unlike that of any other place in the world. Our wildlife and natural resources are held in public trust—these are true commons. As citizens of the United States, these things belong to all of us.
But this fall, just as most hunters are gearing up to get outside, Congress has dropped an enormous obstacle on the dirt road that leads to your favorite duck blind or tree stand. In short, if you hunt on federal public lands, your season is currently closed.
As most folks probably know by now, Congress failed to pass any legislation that would fund the federal government into the next fiscal year; FY13 ended on September 30th. We are now four days into a shutdown, and it is unclear at this point how long it will last. So while Congress continues to grandstand and squabble, the gates remain locked on hundreds of National Wildlife Refuges and other important landscapes across the country—and critical wildlife professionals can’t go to work.
As sportsmen and women, we regularly pay taxes and fees on equipment, licenses, stamps and permits to provide financial support for healthy habitats and robust wildlife populations. We fund the things we love, and we’re more than happy to continue to do so—making this dismissal of our priorities particularly stinging at a time when we’re ready to get outside.
Many communities, particularly rural ones, are also feeling the hurt financially. Hunting and fishing is a huge economic engine for many businesses that depend on tourists and locals spending their money in shops and on services. Nationwide, 90 million hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers contribute $145 billion to the economy. If we can’t go afield, our money will stay in our wallets.
As the days pass, we can only hope that Congress will find a resolution to this impasse. Ripple effects like these are not necessarily obvious at first blush—but as time goes on, and our already-limited days afield take a cut, the impacts to our traditions will be noticeable.
Now is a great time for sportsmen and women to tell your member of Congress that they need to pass a funding bill so vital wildlife conservation, public access, and many other vital services can continue.