FWS released its "Midwest Region Workforce Management Plan" to cope with what it calls a "nationwide budget decline in the National Wildlife Refuge System, and the ever rising cost to conduct business." Instead of allowing budget-forced attrition of staff and resources to occur haphazardly across the region, FWS has proposed a management restructuring so that appropriate resources can be targeted to the highest priority needs.
Wildlife refuges provide unique educational opportunities for tens of thousands of school children annually, many of whom will now be turned away. These refuges provide some of the last vestiges of open space for people to enjoy, whether for birding, photography, hunting, fishing or just taking a peaceful walk in nature. It's a tragedy to see them being abandoned.
The Midwest region is home to 54 national wildlife refuges, 12 wetland management districts and more than one million acres of public land and water. According to FWS officials, refuges in each of the eight states will lose staff positions. Two refuges in Minnesota, Hamden Slough and Crane Meadows, and one refuge in Iowa, Driftless Area, will lose all their staff. This is on top of the 19 others that have never been staffed.
The announcement means that the Fish and Wildlife Service will not allow refuge managers to fill 35 already vacant positions. An additional 36 positions will be cut over the next three years. Combined, these reductions represent 20 percent of the Service's workforce in the region. The plan notes that if there are further declines in the budget or if budgets do not keep pace with increased fixed costs, FWS will be forced to close more refuges to the public.
Impacts of staffing reductions include: