Today U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young sent a letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe requesting that commercial hunting and fishing guides and air taxi operators with current permits be allowed to continue to operate in National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska.
Unlike other Department of the Interior agencies, the USFWS has taken steps to prohibit access to refuges in Alaska.
USFWS managers notified guides and other operators across the state at the beginning of October, a critical time for Alaskans who depend on hunting and fishing for their livelihood, that special use permits would be suspended during the federal government shutdown.
Murkowski and Young said the decision violated Alaskans’ right to access their lands under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and was unnecessarily harming Alaskans ability to hunt, fish, and earn a living.
“You must understand that your actions are having a dramatic impact on many Alaskans’ ability to feed and care for themselves. You have denied access and closed lands that Alaskans depend on, and which are legally required to remain open. We urge you to immediately revoke your agency’s current order and closures and to fully afford Alaskans the rights granted to them under federal law,” Murkowski and Young wrote.
The 16 National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska cover 76.8 million acres, all managed by the USFWS.