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Anti's Attack Hunting on National Wildlife Refuge System- (08/12)

The nation’s leading anti-hunting group is gearing up for another strike against hunting on the National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) System. Hunting is an important tool on refuges that allows for healthy wildlife populations and is the key funding source for conservation efforts.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) filed comments on August 5 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) attesting that a proposal to increase hunting and fishing on 13 refuges violates federal environmental policy. This contention mimics the argument of the Fund for Animals and other anti-hunters in a 2003 lawsuit challenging the USFWS’s decision to open hunting on 39 refuges since 1997. The U.S. Sportsmen’s Legal Defense Fund (SLDF) joined the case to ensure that hunters’ interests are directly represented before the court.

“The notion that opening or expanding hunting and fishing on wildlife refuges violates the law is unfounded,” said U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Senior Vice President Rick Story. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has acted well within its authority when opening these hunting programs.”

The 13 refuges that the USFWS has recently proposed opening or expanding hunting and fishing are:

Cahaba River NWR in Alabama
Sacramento River NWR in California
Stone Lakes NWR in California
Stewart B. McKinney NWR in Connecticut
Moosehorn NWR in Maine
Assabet River NWR in Massachusetts
Great Meadows NWR in Massachusetts
Oxbow NWR in Massachusetts
Glacial Ridge NWR in Minnesota
Squaw Creek NWR in Missouri
Silvio O. Conte NWR in New Hampshire
Wertheim NWR in New York
Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-tail Deer in Washington

Hunting on the NWR System

Throughout the NWR System, excellent opportunities exist for sportsmen to pursue waterfowl, big game and much more. Hunting is a popular public activity on refuge land and a practical means of maintaining optimal wildlife populations. This has led the USFWS to manage land to produce and maintain wildlife populations that will support the sport.

The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 empowered the USFWS to open refuges to hunting when compatible with the purposes for which the refuges were established. In 1997, the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act went a step further. It ensures that the NWR System is managed for wildlife conservation and that hunting and fishing are priority public uses on refuge units.

“The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance lobbied intensively for the passage of the landmark act in 1997 and its SLDF has and will continue to battle in court to protect its integrity,” said Story.

Maintaining Healthy Wildlife Populations

Hunting is an important wildlife management tool on refuge lands. The USFWS Hunting and Fishing Coordinator Tom Reed said some species expand their populations faster than the habitat can handle and that hunting plays an important role in controlling the numbers.

Reed explained that hunting and trapping help control deer populations that pose threats to drivers on the roadways, feral hogs that damage crops, nutria that have depleted vital native vegetation in tidal marshes and many other species.

Sportsmen Finance Conservation

America’s sportsmen pay the lion’s share for wildlife conservation programs. America’s rich hunting tradition brings in billions of dollars through license fees and taxes. This allows for the purchase and maintenance of state and federal lands where conservation programs can be implemented to ensure abundant wildlife populations.

“Without hunters, we wouldn’t be able to purchase more land for refuges,” Reed said. “The purchases of Duck Stamps help fund the system’s expansion and a lot of other species benefit from this because the National Wildlife Refuge System is not managed only for waterfowl.”

Hunting not only pays for wildlife programs, it also benefits economic growth overall.

A report by the USFWS, Banking on Nature 2002: The Economic Benefits to Local Communities of National Wildlife Refuge Visitation, examined 15 refuges in the lower 48 states and found that visitation generated over $809 million in sales of recreational equipment and peripheral items in 2002.

“For the last 100 years, the National Wildlife Refuge System has protected wildlife resources for the benefit of all Americans,” said Story. “Our anti-hunting adversaries ignore the rewards reaped as a result of the hunting tradition and instead pursue efforts to ban the sport.”

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