CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While members of the U.S. Congress plumb new depths of governmental dysfunction, we folks out here on Main Street can only wonder how the current government shutdown will affect us.
West Virginia's natural resources officials found a potential problem earlier this week, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service barred hunters and anglers from the agency's national wildlife refuge system.
"Closing off public access to our national wildlife refuges and public lands is the last thing we want to do, but is consistent with operations called for during a government shutdown" Dan Ashe, the Fish and Wildlife Service's director, said in a statement.
"This is difficult news for the families, birdwatchers, hunters and anglers, and recreationists who enjoy the great outdoors on the refuges - as well as for the many local businesses who depend on the tourism and outdoor recreation economy they generate."
West Virginia has two refuges, the sprawling Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge and the 16,628-acre Canaan Valley NWR. Access to both is now closed.
Curtis Taylor, wildlife chief for the state Division of Natural Resources, doesn't believe the refuge hunting and fishing shutdown is legal.
"I don't think [the service] has the authority to [stop hunting or fishing]," he said. "The federal government might own the land, but the wildlife on those refuges belongs to the people of the state, not to the feds."
After he was informed of the closure and Ashe's comments, Taylor contacted the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in Washington, D.C., and asked what legal authority Ashe had to close the refuges to hunters, anglers, birders and other recreationists.
The answer, apparently, is no authority at all.