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Parnell objects to Alaska refuge access closings

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Posted: Sunday, October 6, 2013 1:00 am | Updated: 9:31 am, Sun Oct 6, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Gov. Sean Parnell on Friday objected to the reported closure of public access for hunting and fishing on national wildlife refuge land in Alaska because of the federal government shutdown.

Parnell called Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell on Friday to register his protest, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

The news release stated Parnell’s call came in reaction to reports that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had closed access to refuge lands. The Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service, which also are Interior Department agencies, did not bar access to their lands, Parnell said, though  developed facilities on federal lands are closed.

“Alaskans should not be prevented from gaining lawful access to all federal lands, most of which are undeveloped and remote,” Parnell stated in the news release.

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act ensures public access to federal lands in Alaska without fees or permits, he said.

“Our local federal guidance on this from both the NPS and BLM is correct and consistent with ANILCA,” Parnell said. “Unfortunately, Fish and Wildlife has taken a different view, and we want that changed.”

Attempts to reach local Fish and Wildlife Service staff were not successful. The agency’s websites in Alaska redirect inquiries to a generic national page. Text at the top of the page states, “Due to the lapse in appropriated funds, all public lands managed by the Interior Department (National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, Bureau of Land Management facilities, etc.) will be closed. For more information, FAQs, and updates, please visit www.doi.gov/shutdown.”

A statement on the Fish and Wildlife Service section of that website says this: “In the event of a lapse in appropriations and pursuant to law, the service will close most operations, but certain excepted activities will continue.

• National Wildlife Refuges will be closed to public access. Visitor centers and other buildings will be closed.

• All activities will be canceled on federal lands and public buildings until the government reopens. This includes hunting and fishing activities on public lands.”

The service manages about 72 million acres of land in Alaska. Parnell’s news release did not specify which refuge lands in Alaska were closed or who reportedly had been denied access.

Alec Lamberson, a fishing guide, posted on Facebook the text of a cease-operations order he had received from Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Manager Andy Loranger on Thursday.

“Your Special Use Permit to provide commercial visitor services on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is suspended effective immediately due to a lapse in appropriations resulting in a government shutdown,” the notice said.

“This shutdown has forced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to curtail all permitted activities on refuge lands across the United States,” the letter said. “This suspension of your Special Use Permit requires that I request you to stop taking clients onto refuge lands and waters, effective immediately.”

Lamberson operates the Kenai Experience guiding service. However, he was told the closure applies to private individuals as well, he said when contacted Saturday.

“They told me that area is actually closed to all activities, commercial or non-commercial,” he said.

He said he wasn’t happy with the closure’s impact on “a single user group” — commercial guides. He said he doubted any private individuals would curtail fishing trips or other activities, in part because the refuge staff hadn’t put up any signs announcing the closure.

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