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story.lead_photo.caption Signs announce the visitor center at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri Valley, Iowa, is closed, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019, as the partial government shutdown continues. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is directing dozens of wildlife refuges to return to work to make sure hunters and others have access despite the government shutdown, according to an email obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is directing dozens of wildlife refuges to return staff members to work to make sure hunters and others have access despite the government shutdown, according to an email obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

The partial restaffing of 38 wildlife refuges is angering wildlife groups, which accuse President Donald Trump's administration of trying to minimize the public effects of the more than 2-week-old shutdown to limit the political blowback for Trump. Trump and Democrats in Congress are locked in a dispute over Trump's demand for billions of dollars for a wall on the southern U.S. border.

In an email sent Tuesday afternoon, Margaret Everson, principal deputy director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, cites "opportunities, including hunting" that are being lost in the shutdown.

Everson says in the email that 38 wildlife refuges around the country will call back some furloughed staff using carryover funds.

"For the next 30 days, using previously appropriated funds, we will bring back a limited number of employees to resume work on high priority projects and activities that support the Service's mission and meet the public's desire for access to Refuge lands," Everson said in the email.

Everson did not immediately respond to an email from the AP seeking comment.

The Trump administration has emphasized public use on public lands in general, especially by hunters and oil and gas developers. This has angered environmental groups, which say the government is putting wildlife and habitat at risk.

On Wednesday, the National Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Refuge Association, the Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, the Trust for Public Lands and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Retirees Association urged the Trump administration to keep national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands closed to the public during the shutdown.

According to the email, the wildlife refuges being restaffed include Oklahoma's Wichita Mountains, scene of an annual winter elk hunt.

Rod Smith, a biologist with Oklahoma's Department of Wildlife Conservation, said Wednesday that he and others are awaiting word on whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's directive on carryover money means a hunt can happen next week. If applicants who won the roughly 300 permits granted this year don't get to hunt by the end of January, they may have to wait until next winter.

Other refuges identified in Everson's letter are Midway Atoll and Kilauea Point in Hawaii, Tualatin River in Oregon, Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually in Washington state, the Sacramento, Kern, Sutter and five others in California, the Lower Rio Grande Valley refuge and four others in Texas, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal refuge in Colorado, Utah's Bear River refuge, and the Bosque del Apache and Valle de Oro refuges in New Mexico.

Others in the Midwest and South are the Minnesota Valley and Fergus Falls refuges in Minnesota, the DeSoto in Iowa, the Mingo refuge and two others in Missouri, the Crystal River refuge and three others in Florida and the Wheeler refuge in Alabama.

In the Northeast, the refuges singled out for more staffing in the shutdown are Pennsylvania's John Heinz, the Wertheim of New York, Bombay Hook of Delaware, Parker River of Massachusetts, and the Umbagog of New Hampshire.

Information for this article was contributed by Adam Kealoha Causey of The Associated Press.

A Section on 01/10/2019

Print Headline: U.S. refuges recall staffs

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  • Jesuswillsave
    January 10, 2019 at 11:09 a.m.

    Can depend on the AP to be negative about whatever the administration chooses to do.

  • RBear
    January 10, 2019 at 12:04 p.m.

    JWS how is reporting the facts negative? I guess to a Trump supporter, the facts are a negative in the narrative.

  • Jfish
    January 10, 2019 at 12:07 p.m.

    I agree, I thought it was a pretty factual article.

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