Federal lands and recreational facilities reopened to hunters, anglers, birdwatchers and others Thursday after the 16-day partial government shutdown ended late Wednesday.
"Our rangers are out getting the gates open now," says Jim Buck, Rogue Valley Basin operations manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "We're back to normal, fully open for business."
The Corps-managed boat ramps on the Rogue River and Lost Creek Lake had been gated and closed since the shutdown began Oct. 1.
Likewise, the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest reopened access to boat ramps around Applegate Lake, while the Bureau of Land Management returned access to its two boat ramps at Hyatt Lake — the only ramp access on that reservoir east of Ashland.
The various federal agencies had varied greatly on how they handled access to lands and recreational facilities during the 16-day period when only essential federal employees remained at work.
Corps lands were closed to the public in Southern Oregon, but it was not enforced at places such as the Cole Rivers Hatchery boat ramp and the "Holy Water" trout-fishing impoundment between the hatchery and Lost Creek Dam.
The Forest Service allowed access to its lands but not some facilities, such as Applegate Lake ramps. However, Umpqua National Forest did not block access to its ramps at Diamond Lake, where anglers used the ramp and parking areas — many without paying the launch fee.
The Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge system in Klamath County and Northern California also opened Thursday morning to bird watchers and waterfowl hunters who had been locked out of the facilities for the first half of October.
The general bull elk hunting season in the Cascades wraps up today, and state wildlife biologists believe hunter success rates have improved this year.
Based on anecdotal evidence, hunters seem to be faring better than the dismal 2-percent success rate they've achieved the last couple of years in the Rogue Unit of eastern Jackson County, says Mark Vargas, the Rogue District wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Biologists have been driving around elk camps throughout the southern Cascades and have run into a handful of hunters who have shot a Roosevelt bull elk since Saturday's opener to the seven-day season.
"You see so few during the season, it's hard to tell," Vargas says. "We'll have to wait and see when they report.
"I'm hoping we're way above our 2 percent," he says. "Maybe pushing 3 or 4 percent."
State law requires hunters to report their hunting success or lack thereof by Jan. 31.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.