Alexandria, VA – October 9, 2013 - Millions of anglers are now locked out of federal lands and waters and thousands of small businesses are suffering because Congress and the Administration can’t agree on the nation’s finances.
According to the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), federal agencies across the nation are warning anglers that they are not permitted to use public waters managed by the federal government during the federal shutdown. A statement from one federal land management agency says, “…facilities and lands are now closed to the public and public use activities have been suspended nationwide.”
“This is ludicrous,” said ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson. “We understand that public facilities that require staffing, such as buildings and federally-operated marinas and hatcheries, are not open and that federal employees are not permitted to operate these facilities. But let’s face it, most of the federal areas used by anglers are undeveloped and the recreational user typically visits them many times without seeing a federal employee of any type.”
Robertson further said, “We know that many of the complaints being voiced to the Department of Interior are from angry anglers who have planned trips, spent money on plane tickets, guides, lodging and new equipment who now can’t make their trip.”
As the stalemate between the Administration and Congress continues, the damage to the recreation industry mounts. Federally-controlled waters have a sportfishing community support system that is comprised of lodging facilities, restaurants, guide services and bait and tackle shops, just to name a few of the services used by anglers. Sportfishing in the United States on federal lands supports more than 100,000 jobs, providing $984 million in federal taxes to the federal government and contributing $13.8 billion to the nation’s economy each year.
“The public knows where staff is needed to manage facilities and developed areas and where they are not,” continued Robertson. “More baffling are statements from federal agencies saying that law enforcement staff will be on hand to enforce the closure of these waters during this federal shutdown. For example, law enforcement staff in areas like Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park will be on hand to stop the public from entering park waters during the federal shutdown. Attempting to ban the public from areas of the ocean due to budgetary restrictions – while paying law enforcement officers to enforce the ban – defies logic and can only be viewed as intentionally burdensome. Where will the closures stop? Will the federal government close down the oceans' entire exclusive economic zone too?”
Aside from the edict from the federal government that all federally owned waters are closed to anglers and all outdoor enthusiasts, the impacts to conservation are considerable. Every day that passes represents approximately $2 million that doesn’t get spent on fisheries conservation and federal fish hatcheries that don’t meet their schedules for fish production. Not to mention the inability of thousands of federal conservation employees to do their job and an even greater number of volunteer fishery conservation efforts that fall by the wayside. The cost to fishery conservation is incalculable.
“Many segments of the economy are being damaged by the failure to come to agreement over the nation’s finances and the recreation community is not exempt,” concluded Robertson. “The American Sportfishing Association encourages anglers to go to www.KeepAmericaFishing.org and send a letter to their Members of Congress saying it is time to stop the shutdown and get the nation back on its financial track so resource conservation can move forward and the public can once again enjoy its public trust lands.”