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Public Comment Sought on Duck Hunting Regs (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 28 Apr 97 11:06:05 MST
From: RICH_GREENWOOD@mail.fws.gov

March 14, 1997                         Hugh Vickery  202-208-5634


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment on
whether to modify the regulatory alternatives it considers in
setting duck-hunting seasons.  The potential changes include
increases in season lengths and bag limits in some of the
existing alternatives as well as the addition of a very
restrictive alternative.

The Service published a notice in the March 13, 1997, Federal
Register asking for public comment before it formally proposes
any changes.

Last year, the Service considered three regulatory
alternatives--"restrictive," "moderate," and "liberal"--before
selecting the "liberal" alternative.  Under changes recommended
by the Adaptive Harvest Management Working Group, bag limits and
season lengths would be increased in the "moderate" and "liberal"
options.  These changes are intended to provide additional
hunting opportunity in a way that is biologically sound and that
reflects the desires and needs of state wildlife agencies.  

"Liberal" regulations would be permitted only when mallard
populations could be maintained at or near the goal of the North
American Waterfowl Management Plan.  Historically, regulations
have been tied to mallard populations because they are the most
common duck harvested and are a bellwether for many other

The working group also recommended that a fourth "very
restrictive" alternative be added.  This alternative is intended
to provide limited hunting seasons in years when waterfowl
populations drop to low levels but when closing the season would
be unnecessarily restrictive.

The Adaptive Harvest Management Working Group includes technical
experts from the four flyway councils, which represent state and
Provincial interests, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service.  According to the working group, the
recommendations are intended to provide maximum hunting
opportunities consistent with long-term resource conservation and
the desire to maintain duck populations at levels specified in
the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

Although bag limits and season lengths could increase over those
used in the recent past, the biological impact would not.   The
reason is a long-term decline in hunter numbers.  The number of
waterfowl hunters peaked in 1970 at 2 million and declined
steadily to a low of 1 million in 1987.  In spite of liberal
hunting regulations in 1994 and 1995, hunter numbers rose only
slightly to 1.2 million.

"We are comfortable that the changes suggested by the working
group are consistent with sound resource conservation," said
Acting Service Director John Rogers.  "However, we are aware of
concerns some people may have about increasing the bag limits and
season lengths, especially given the reports of disappointing
hunting seasons in some areas this past fall."

Although the projected fall flight in 1996 was one of the largest
in decades, mild weather and abundant habitat may have reduced
hunting success in some areas.

Under the liberal regulations in place for the 1995-96 and 1996-
97 hunting seasons, an average of 10 percent of the adult male
mallards in the fall flight were taken by hunters.  In the 1970s
and early 1980s, when similar regulations were used, the harvest
rate for adult male mallards was 13 percent.

Given the number of waterfowl hunters expected in 1997 and
assuming that population and habitat conditions again call for
the "liberal" alternative, the working group anticipates a
harvest rate of about 12 percent.  Harvest rates for hen mallards
and other ducks usually are less than for male mallards.

The Adaptive Harvest Management process was designed to help
waterfowl managers better understand the impacts of hunting
regulations on harvest and population levels.  The process is
intended to provide a more formal framework for addressing
controversial harvest-management issues, thereby providing a more
objective, better informed, and less contentious decision-making

The Service will offer its proposal for regulatory alternatives
for ducks in the Federal Register in mid-May, with a public
comment period ending on or about June 27, 1997.  Final
regulatory alternatives will be published in the Federal Register
on or about July 15, 1997.  Comments can be sent to Chief, Office
of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Department of the Interior,
Fish and Wildlife Service, ms 634-ARLSQ, 1849 C Street NW.,
Washington, DC  20240.

News releases are also available on the World Wide Web at 
http://www.fws.gov/~r9extaff/pubaff.html  They can be reviewed in
chronological order or searched by keyword.

Questions concerning a particular news release or item of 
information should be directed to the person listed as the 
contact. General comments or observations concerning the 
content of the information should be directed to Craig 
Rieben (craig_rieben@mail.fws.gov) in the Office of Public 

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