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Refuge will still be open; Fort Sill affected

In the event of a government shutdown, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wants to keep as much of its land as accessible to the public as possible, according to John Bradley, an external affairs officer for the agency's Region 2 headquarters in Albuquerque, N.M.

At the refuge, keeping land accessible means access to such activities as bird watching and fishing. Mission-essential personnel will open up the gates and things like that, but there will not be anyone to clean up restrooms or empty the trash, he said. The Refuge Visitor Center at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge will close for the duration of the shutdown.

"Hopefully the shutdown won't last too long and we'll be able to assume operations normally as soon as possible," Bradley said.

Law enforcement officers and fire crews are among those considered mission essential, he said.

"We'll continue our safety message that when you're out on the refuge, make yourself aware of wildlife or weather-related incidents, and just use your best common sense when you're out there. There will be law enforcement officers out, to make sure that safety remains our priority, and we'll be looking out for the public if they do access the land," Bradley said, adding that they will also make sure that people don't take advantage of the situation to, say, take more fish than they're legally allowed.

If a person is injured or immobile, mission-essential staff will assist them, Bradley said.

"Our headquarters is still working out details, depending on the length of the shutdown. We're hopeful that a government shutdown won't occur, but we've been through this before, so we have certain procedures in place and then it will depend on the extent of the shutdown how we adjust," he said.

Fort Sill would be affected by any shutdown, but officials were meeting Friday afternoon to come up with a plan of action. If a shutdown does occur, an announcement will be forthcoming Sunday night.

The Comanche County Farm Service Center at 1606 NW Lawton Avenue would also be affected by a shutdown. Employees of Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) would not report to work.

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