USFWS land open for pheasant hunting
By CHUCK CLEMENT, Staff Reporter
The federal land traditionally open to hunting, including the areas in the Madison Wetland Management District, will remain open for the start of the regular pheasant season on Saturday.|
The lifting of the partial shutdown of the federal government that took place Thursday (today) also means that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife offices near Lake Madison reopened.
"Our offices are fully open now and we're back in business," said Natoma Hansen, district manager at the Lake Madison offices.
The Madison Wetland Management District oversees about 38,500 acres of purchased wetland areas. The district also administers a wetland easement program that includes about 52,000 acres and a grasslands easement program that contains about 39,000 acres.
USFWS officials had reopened the federal lands for the resident-only pheasant hunting period last weekend. However, the reopening was announced at about 4 p.m. Friday, according to USFWS officials, so the announcement may have gone unnoticed by some South Dakotans. State public lands had remained open for the weekend pheasant hunt.
In a statement released on Friday, USFWS officials said, "It has been determined that allowing public access to Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) will not incur further government expenditure or obligation and is allowable under a government shutdown."
Will Meeks, a USFWS assistant regional director in Colorado, said Thursday, "Everything that would normally be open will be open for public use."
According to Hansen, the restart of federal programs means that the land in the Madison district will certainly remain open for the general pheasant season.
South Dakota's regular pheasant season opens at noon on Saturday.
When USFWS officials announced the closure of federal lands for public use, they said that due to the furlough of about 78 percent of USFWS employees, the remaining non-furloughed workforce could not ensure the safety of facilities, lands and resources.
Last week, federal officials left open an option to re-close the federal lands, saying closure could re-occur if public use would "...likely cause Service expenditures or obligations to be made in violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act, the Service will close public access."
Hansen said that if anyone has questions about USFWS operations related to the Madison Wetland Management District, they can call 256-2974. The website for the Lake Madison offices has also reopened at www.fws.gov/madisonwetlands/index.htm.