According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, La Crosse area duck hunters will still be able to go out on the river and hunt this weekend, opening weekend, despite the closure of Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge. Due to the government shutdown, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had closed off the 240,000 acre refuge; however the Wisconsin DNR is taking the initiative to allow hunters access to the river.
In a press release on Tuesday, the chief warden of the Wisconsin DNR, Randy Stark, stated that waterfowl hunting is “business as usual.” The DNR has not received the official word from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that this is ok, and with the shutdown it is difficult to get a hold of the workers.
The DNR is requiring that hunters enter the river through a state or private boat launch. Hunters shouldn’t use a federal launch to get to the river. The federal boat launches are barricaded and land is off limits. John Wetzel, secretary of the La Crosse County Conservation Alliance, asks that hunters be respectful to closed land areas.
The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge covers 260 miles and is made up of land and water in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. It would be difficult to regulate this entire area and to create boundaries for people entering the water.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to give a definite statement on the situation by the weekend.