The Bill Williams River and Havasu National Wildlife Refuges are feeling the effects of the partial federal government shutdown.
The Bill Williams River refuge is located on State Route 95 just south of the Bill Williams River and the La Paz/Mohave County line. The visitors’ center is closed, and the place looks very empty. The refuge is open for activities that do include a refuge employee, but a notice on the refuge’s website warns people using the refuge do so at their own rick.
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s website, approximately one in every six employees of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is still on the job during the shutdown.
When the News-Herald placed a phone call to Timothy Allen, Administrative Officer, there was a recorded message that Allen was not authorized to work during the shutdown and that he would respond to messages after the shutdown was over.
This message was posted on the refuge’s website: “Due to the lapse in federal appropriations, this website will not be updated until further notice. Where public access to refuge lands does not require the presence of a federal employee or contractor, activities on refuge lands will be allowed to continue on the same terms as before the appropriations lapse. Any entry onto Refuge System property during this period of federal government shutdown is at the visitor’s sole risk.”
Dee Dee DeLorenzo, president of the Friends of the Bill Williams and Havasu National Wildlife Refuges, said in an e-mail that she hadn’t been to the refuge since Dec. 27. At that time, there were no paid staff members at the refuge headquarters. The public had access to all the areas they normally had access to, including the fishing peninsula at the refuge headquarters and Planet Ranch Road.
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s website, the only people still working for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are those working in law enforcement, animal caretakers, and those involved in maintaining essential infrastructure. Those whose positions are covered by non-lapsing appropriations, carry-over funds, or contractual obligations that have already been paid for are also still working.
Of the total of 8,539 positions in the Fish & Wildlife Service, 1,331 are still on the job during the shutdown.
DeLorenzo said the Friends of the Bill Williams and Havasu National Wildlife Refuges was able to do the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count in late December, but they had to use their own kayaks as there were no refuge employees to operate the refuge’s boats. Results of the bird count have not been available because of the shutdown.
DeLorenzo said U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service law enforcement officers still keep an eye on things at the refuges, and there are refuge volunteers who are keeping an eye on the headquarters and keeping the place clean.