The Arizona Game and Fish Commission met yesterday (Oct. 1) in special public session to discuss the challenges of providing access to certain lands and waters where the public has been denied entry for otherwise lawful hunting and fishing during the current shutdown of the federal government.

In particular, the commission discussed its concerns over the National Park Service’s closure of Lees Ferry, a popular fishery and boating access area on the Colorado River downstream of Glen Canyon Dam.

The commission voted to direct the Arizona Game and Fish Department to temporarily offer manpower and services to the National Park Service to maintain public access to Lees Ferry during the shutdown.

“In the case of Lees Ferry, we’re dealing with a unique and important place for anglers, guide businesses, and the local economy,” said Kurt Davis, a member of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. “The Arizona Game and Fish Department already has fisheries management and law enforcement resources dedicated to that area, and we’d like to offer those resources so the federal government can do the right thing and keep Lees Ferry open to the public during this time.”

The formal motion approved by the commission was as follows:

That the Commission direct the Department to offer the National Park Service manpower and services for the purpose of maintaining security on federal property and to federal assets at Lees Ferry for up to 30 days in exchange for allowing access through Lees Ferry to the Colorado River for fishing and hunting activities in accordance with state fish and game regulations during the federal government shutdown. For the purposes of this motion, access means the ability to fish or take waterfowl from shore or boat on the Colorado River from the confluence of the Paria River upstream to Glen Canyon Dam. The Department will monitor costs and report to the Commission should those costs become of concern.

It is unknown at this time whether the National Park Service will accept the offer.

During the course of the discussion, the commissioners also emphasized that hunters in Arizona will have access to most federal lands (such as national forests or BLM lands) for their hunts, other than controlled access points that have been closed or to national wildlife refuges under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Park Service has closed lands under its jurisdiction. It is the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s understanding that where federal lands remain open for public access, hunting is allowed in accordance with state law.

Certain hunts begin in Arizona this weekend for turkey, quail, tree squirrels, ducks (mountain zone), and juniors-only javelina.

“We want hunters to know that Arizona is open for business and that they should head out and enjoy the resource,” said Davis.

For more information on how federal land management agencies are dealing with the federal government shutdown, visit www.doi.gov/shutdown/index.cfm or www.usda.gov/documents/usda-fs-shutdown-plan.pdf.

Logo courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Commission

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