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Thursday, October 3, 2013
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Shutdown Closes Popular National Refuges to Vermont's Hunters and Anglers
The federal government shutdown has some Vermont hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers looking for alternative venues to enjoy their favorite fall activities. At the Silvio Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, both the Nulhegan Basin Division and Putney Mountain Unit have been closed to the public. The Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge has also curtailed operations.

Visitors to the the headquarters of these federal lands will find they have been shuttered, gates leading into the properties have been closed, and access to public activities such as hunting and fishing have been suspended. A federal agent patrolling the Conte refuge is warning hunters against trespass.

"The federal shutdown hits Vermont during one of the state's busiest seasons for hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing," said Patrick Berry, Fish & Wildlife commissioner. "This is a time when rural communities across Vermont really count on the local revenues generated by hunting and fishing activities."

Berry encouraged those whose plans are being compromised by the closures to check the department website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com) for other wildlife management areas and public lands that offer comparable resources.

"Closure of the Conte and Missisquoi refuges will undoubtedly upset the plans for many sportsmen and women in the region," Berry added, "and deprive the Island Pond area of much needed income. We can only hope that there will be time and other options for all those affected to enjoy the resources Vermont has to offer."

Vermont currently has several hunting seasons open, including for moose archery, bear, ruffed grouse, woodcock, rabbit, and squirrel-all of which normally occur on refuge lands. Trout fishing waters on the refuges, which typically are open until October 31, are also off limits. Affected in these closures are:

• The Conte refuge in the Northeast Kingdom, encompassing 26,526 acres of remote forested land, comprises one of the premier--and most popular--areas in the state for moose archery hunting and small game hunting. Many hunters that normally choose to hunt in the Conte area, including those who were fortunate enough to draw archery moose permits, will need to travel to other areas. Nearby West Mountain and Bill Sladyk Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) offer opportunities for both wildlife watching and upland game hunting and are open except for the roads that border the Conte.

• The Nulhegan River and its North and Black Branches within the Conte refuge, as well as Lewis Pond, are popular trout fishing waters. Alternatives include West Mountain and the Johnson Farm WMAs.

• Another area popular with hunters, the Putney Mountain Unit of the Conte in southeastern Vermont is also closed. Hunters are encouraged to travel to Turner Hill WMA.

• The Missisquoi refuge is considered one of the best waterfowl hunting locations in the northeast. Should the government shutdown continue, the controlled waterfowl hunts currently scheduled on the refuge will be cancelled. Eagle Point Wildlife Management Area in Derby, which is managed cooperatively between Fish & Wildlife and the USFWS, has also been affected by the shutdown, and all access to Eagle Point, including all roads and parking areas has been closed. Waterfowl hunters should consider Mud Creek WMA and North Hero State Park.

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Media Contacts: Patrick Berry, 802-828-1000; Mark Scott, 802-828-1000

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