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| p.1 #1 · Midway Atoll closed for 2013 season! |
If you have not heard or if you wanted to go...Midway Atoll closed for 2013 season! What a bummer, my gal comes back this past year saying how great it was and says she wants to go again. Now we both were going to go this next year. She has lots of stunning images and here is one of hers, a Red-tailed tropicbird that flies backward in midair with his courtship display.
Now Joseph Van Os sends out a discouraging letter. I cant help but think that all the money that was spent refurbishing the facilities for tourism that now the buildings are going to decay due to lack of funds. Just makes it harder and more expensive to start it all back up again.
Dear Midway Atoll Trip Participant:
It is my unhappy task to report Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge has been closed to visitation due to government budget cutbacks with a refuge shortfall of $1.2 million. Unfortunately, this situation looks like it will persist for the foreseeable future. I am extremely saddened to be forced to cancel all of our Midway trips for 2013. They were fully booked, with waitlists.
The decision for the closure of the refuge was announced on October 23rd. I have talked several times in the past weeks with the Superintendents of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the Superintendent of US Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Region, and I have written to the two US Senators from Hawaii and those from my home state, as well as the national Director of the USFWS, Daniel Ashe, in Washington D.C. All of these people were aware of our upcoming travel plans.
Their decision to terminate the Midway Visitor Program is calculated on the elimination of a full-time law enforcement officer on the island, a seasonal ranger, a part time visitor coordinator and 3 unpaid volunteer positions. The salaries for these positions were characterized as "peanuts" by one of these officials. Those companies and organizations with permits to operate trips to Midway offered to "chip in" and pay for some of these salaries. Yet that offer was not accepted. However, due to a convoluted method of cost sharing for operating the refuge and the huge active runway the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) keeps open for trans-Pacific aircraft emergencies, eliminating the Visitor Program somehow magically and significantly reduces the deficit by shrinking the number of low paid/no paid staff members stationed on the atoll.
If the tone of this letter sounds like I am bitterI am! Because of an accounting maneuver the visitor closure denies us access to what is, perhaps, the most spectacular national wildlife refuge in America, and certainly one of the world's greatest wildlife photography destinations. It eliminates access for a wide range of people with Midway interests, including Native Hawaiians, history buffs, birders, nature photographers, veterans formerly stationed on Midway during the Cold War, WWII vets still living, and many others.
Following the US elections and winter holidays I will try to muster a coalition of interested groups and individuals to see what can be done to reinstate the Midway Visitor Program. At that time I'll ask for your help in contacting those with the power to reverse this decision.
Meanwhile, I am truly sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings. Thank you very much for your patience during this transition. Your deposit will be refunded in full. We value your business and trust in us.
Joseph Van Os
Red-tailed tropicbird flies backward in midair courtship display, Midway atoll