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10/15/2013

No Celebration for National Wildlife Refuge Week

Our country's network of national wildlife refuges stretches from coast to coast.  With at least one wildlife refuge in each state and one within driving distance of every major city, our wildlife refuges are an important part of our outdoor heritage. These special places provide homes for hundreds of different types of birds, animals, fish and plants. They also provide opportunities for people from all walks of life to hike, hunt, fish, watch wildlife or just enjoy being outside.

To celebrate all our refuges have to offer, this week was recognized as National Wildlife Refuge Week.  But instead of celebrating with free entrance, special tours and other festivities, many of our refuges remain closed as a result of the Republican government shutdown.  People can't get in, for free or otherwise, and local communities are losing millions of dollars.

Fall is an important time for communities near our public lands; its more pleasant temperatures, colorful foliage, and wildlife seasons draw visitors--especially hunters and anglers-- to our wildlife refuges.  An average of 19,000 anglers will be turned away from fishing in our refuges each day that the shutdown continues.  As will more than 6,800 hunters.  Local businesses could lose $4.5 million in sales from wildlife refuges every day that the government remains closed.

While extraordinary measures have been used to open a select few national parks, many communities, including those near national wildlife refuges, are still feeling the pain from the continued closure of public lands that are so central to their economies. The only way to provide relief, restore the season, and protect the wild heritage that makes America so unique is by fully funding our government to open up all of our public lands.

Then we'll have something to celebrate. 

-- Athan Manuel, Director of Lands Protection, Sierra Club


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