U.S. Fish and Wildlife shutting down in Missouri

The federal government shutdown claimed more operations in Missouri this week.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said its lack of new spending authority from Congress has forced it to close all “facilities and lands” across the nation, “and public use activities have been suspended.”

Meanwhile, the state Employment Security division continues taking questions and applications from people, including furloughed federal employees — although the division is prohibited by state law from disclosing any “information that would reveal the individual’s or employing unit’s identity,” spokesman Tom Bastian said this week.

Last week, the division announced it was extending office hours at its Regional Claims Centers, from 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m., because of the federal government’s partial shutdown.

Mid-Missouri’s Regional Center is in Jefferson City, at 751-9040.

Bastian said Missouri’s unemployment compensation law says a person “may be eligible in the first week they are no longer working.”

And, he said, the Employment Security division had “a 10.4 percent increase in the initial claims for unemployment compensation” after the federal shutdown.

In a news release distributed by Missouri’s Conservation department, as a “conservation-partner courtesy,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the closure includes “all National Wildlife Refuges, Waterfowl Production Areas, National Fish Hatcheries, Fish and Wildlife Coordination Offices and Ecological Services Offices.”

Any events scheduled at these facilities have been canceled.

In Missouri, that closure involves the Columbia Fish and Wildlife Coordination Office, Ecological Services Office and Private Lands Office, and more than 61,000 acres of land, including nine national wildlife refuges and the Neosho National Fish Hatchery.

The wildlife areas include the Big Muddy, along the Missouri River in Mid-Missouri; Squaw Creek in Holt County; Swan Lake in Chariton County; Great River in Clark and Lewis counties; Clarence Cannon in Pike County; Middle Mississippi, south of St. Louis; Pilot Knob in Iron County; Mingo in Stoddard and Wayne counties; and Ozark Cavefish in Lawrence County.

The news release said the federal shutdown has forced the cancellation of all wildlife-related recreational activities on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands — such as hunting, fishing and environmental education — as well as other public events scheduled at any of the facilities.

And the agency is “asking the public to delay their plans to visit any of these locations until U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands and facilities are re-opened.”

In the service’s Midwest Region — covering Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin — more than 800 employees have been placed in unpaid furlough status, and a total of 55 national wildlife refuges, 12 wetland management districts, six national fish hatcheries and more than 1.2 million acres of federal public lands are closed.

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