Shutdown affecting hunting and fishing. Republicans won’t like that…

Most of the country is pissed at the Republicans over the shut down (and rightly so, since it’s their doing).  But there are still a cabal of Tea Partiers who, in the name of Jesus, would rather see our economy destroyed before they see the poor get healthcare (ironically, because of concern that the healthcare will do bad things to the economy).

But there’s a new monkey in the wrench that they may not have seen coming.  The Game and Fish Commission, the branch of the government that regulates hunting and fishing, is now shutdown.  Oh, you wanted to deploy your boat at government maintained ramps into government maintained lakes?  Yeah, no more of that.  Oh, you wanted to go shoot your guns at animals?  Yeah, not while we’re shut down.

As the federal government shutdown that began October 1 stretches into its second week, it is now threatening the beginning of hunting and fishing seasons, and hunters, fishers, and sportsmen’s groups aren’t taking that news quietly.

Here are some details.

For some hunters and fishers, that means the loss of a basic yearly ritual: hunting with family or friends for deer, waterfowl, or other animals. For others, it means the loss of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: in states like Colorado or New Mexico, big game hunting licenses can take more than a decade to get, meaning hunters who finally got a license but miss this season may have to wait years for another chance, if another ever comes. For fishers, it means the closure of public lakes, rivers, and boat ramps maintained by federal authorities.

But the major effect is on local communities, small business, and people who depend on hunting and fishing for their livelihoods. The wildlife-related recreation economy is huge: in 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that it amounted to $144 billion annually. That economy is made up of hunters and fishers, birdwatchers and environmental enthusiasts, but also of hunting guides who make their living during major hunting seasons. It includes retailers and businesses that depend on $86 billion in direct hunting- and fishing-related sales. Small communities that have cropped up around public lands depend on revenues generated by hunting- and fishing-related tourism during this time of year. All of that is jeopardized by the shutdown.

“These three months of hunting season are like Christmas to a lot of these rural communities,” Land Tawnyey, the executive director of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said. “They make all their money in three months. It’s vitally important to their economy.” Tawney said he has already canceled hunts on public lands that would have otherwise taken place, and he’s not alone: hunting trips across the country are facing the effects of the shutdown.

Hunters and fishers also generate more than $1.5 billion in revenues each year through licenses. Since most of those are processed at the state level, they shouldn’t be affected by a shutdown. But some licenses, for waterfowl and other species, are done federally and could be impacted. States could also see a drop in license revenue if hunters stay home because they can’t access public lands, Williams said.

The shutdown is also killing environmental conservation efforts.

Tank the economy?  Sure!  But if we can’t go out and shoot our guns at animals…

Ah, the Tea Party.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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