The Oct. 1 shutdown of the federal government has forced the closure of all U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and National Park Service offices in North Carolina, shutting down hunting- and fishing-related activites on all federal properties in North Carolina.
The government shutdown and the closures left the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and sportsmen scrambling for answers, mainly about future permit hunts at federal lands.
Anyone telephoning a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Park Service office in North Carolina heard the same recorded message: "Due to a lapse in Congressional appropriations, our office will be closed until such time as operational funding resumes.We will respond to your message when we return. The (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/National Park Service) apologize(s) for any inconvenience and remain(s) dedicated to fish and wildlife conservation."
This message was posted on the Commission’s Website about 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 1:
“We have been informed by federal lands management that due to the lapse of government funding, certain federal lands and facilities are closed. The federal shutdown may close hunting, fishing, boating and wildlife viewing on federal refuges, national forests and other installations. For specific site information, contact the federal agency responsible directly.”
That may be difficult to do since FWS and NPS offices are closed and Websites are not operating. Hunting has been stopped at more than one million acres on the Nantahala, Pisgah, Uwarrie and Croatan national forests.
Mallory Martin, the Commission’s assistant director, said federal employees had told him “If a (federal) property is gated and the gate is closed and locked, then no access will be allowed.”
One property's operating rules may be a little troublesome: the Roanoke RiverWetlandsGameLand and National Wildlife Refuge, with sections spread across Bertie, Halifax, Martin and Northampton counties. The Commission manages hunting and fishing on the state-owned tracts on the river's south bank and federally owned tracts on the north bank.
"The federal property at Askew, Broadneck and Company swamps, Conine, Great and Goodman islands and Hampton and Pound swamps will be closed," Martin said.
Meanwhile, the Commission-owned Conoho Farms and Devereux swamp properties on the river's south side will remain open to hunting and fishing, along with Beach House swamp.
"We will be directing people to contact their federal land managers," Martin said. "Most federal property will be closed, but some may be staffed."
At the Roanoke River Game Lands and before the shutdown, early-season permit hunts already had been confirmed for October, plus late-season waterfowl dates. Now, they may not occur at FWS land. Currituck NWR’s permit-only waterfowl hunts at selected blinds also may be scrubbed, and because the Mattamuskeet NWR is federally managed, permit waterfowl hunts on permanent blinds along the lake’s southern shoreline appear to be in danger since entrance gates to the refuge have been locked.
In addition, access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore has been severely restricted. Frank Folb at Frank & Fran’s tackle shop in Avon said that the Avon Pier has been closed, beach-access ramps have been closed with chains, pedestrian access to all areas of the beach except those within Outer Banks villages (Rodanthe, Salvo, Waves, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hattears) has been shut down, and that the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center has been closed down – with charter captains given a day to move their boats to other slips or have them locked down for the duration of the government shutdown.