With the sequestration (an $85 billion across-the-board cut from the federal budget) set to take place by at least 11:59 p.m. tonight, a lot of people are wondering exactly what the impacts will be. If the White House and Congress can’t come to an agreement, and it doesn’t look they will, there will be a forced 8.2 percent budget cut to all non-exempt federal programs including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. National Park Services, and the U.S. Geological Survey.
What it could mean for you, is less access to hunting, hiking, and fishing opportunities at national wildlife refuges.
“With regard to our wildlife refuges, funding reductions will mean that our public visitation programs will suffer,” Chris Tollefson USFWS Chief of Communications wrote in an email. “The refuges will still be staffed, in most instances, and will remain part of the refuge system under Service management. But we will be forced to close these refuges on the weekends, and eliminate many of our public hunting and fishing programs unless and until we have refuge staff and law enforcement officers available to oversee them.”
Tollefson said these closures will be more or less limited to about 128 of the country’s 561 refuges identified by outgoing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Of course, this number (and many more details) could change as the Service scrambles to figure out how to best make its budget cuts.
Hopefully, the political winds shift soon and the Service won’t be forced into these tough decisions. Because, in a time of fiscal strain, why would we make cuts to such economic drivers like hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation?