July 11, 2020

Maine Has Black Bears…And a Few Fools

When I was a very young boy, I recall one time going to the grocery store with my mother. While there, I witnessed another young boy, perhaps a year or two younger than me (4 or 6), throw himself to the floor of the store, screaming, crying and eventually banging his head against the floor, in a fit of uncontrolled rage, simply because he wanted something on the shelf his mother would not let him have.

Quietly, the mom pushed her cart to the front of the store, spoke briefly with the cashier, left her partially-filled cart for when she intended to return, and dragged the boy outside and then…I don’t know what happened. I’m guessing what happened might have been pretty close to what my mother said to me when I asked her what the mom was going to do. Her response went something like: If you ever do that, you may not ever live long enough to see your next birthday.

Things have changed, and depending on one’s perspective, not for the better.

Let’s shift up gears for a moment and examine the acts of adults – perhaps those that didn’t fully grow up from the days of temper tantrums. These days some adults mostly resemble the actions of the 4-year-old screaming, banging his head, and demanding his own way.

Most adults love to extol the wonders of what they call democracy…but only when it is beneficial to prop up an ideology and the narrative that goes along with it. Most really cannot comprehend what a democracy is but love it when it works for them. What a selfish society we have crafted.

The American Governments, federal and state, misrepresent to the citizen slaves that they have certain “rights” (actually privileges of which can be taken away as easily as given out), among them the “right to petition the state.”

This can work well in a civilized society that isn’t manipulated into little locust totalitarians, the likes of which are as the 4-year-old banging his head and demanding his way. Regardless, the spoiled totalitarian, brought up under the banner of repetitive petitioning, goes about his or her demonstrations with the belief that regardless of what the majority have spoken in their “democratic” society, they will get what they want one way or another.

So what’s wrong with that you might ask? Well, nothing, actually. It is the system that has been created and we are subjected to all of its bad points and very few good ones. For me, it’s all about the approach and methodology used in demanding one’s way.

Maine has weathered two anti-hunting bear referendums within the past 16 years. Both times, the voters of Maine have said they don’t want little spoiled totalitarians telling those that are paid to manage the state’s wildlife, how to do it. But that doesn’t stop the little spoiled totalitarians.

Many of those spoiled totalitarians simply do not approve of hunting, fishing, trapping…basically any kind of what they might call consumptive use of wildlife and natural resources. That’s fine. It’s their uncontrolled desire to force all others to accept and abide by their political ideals, etc. Regardless as to whether years of wildlife science and management has proven that consumptive use of natural resources, when done responsibly, is a major benefit to the people and to the wildlife, spoiled totalitarian anti hunters, incapable of mounting an actual provable scientific basis for demanding an end to hunting, fishing, and trapping, have no other alternative than to resort of lying and playing on the emotions of ignorant people.

In the second of the two bear hunting referendums that Maine residents and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) endured, the MDIFW did a very respectable job of hitting the pavement to educate voters that due to the very large bear population in the state, the department needs every tool and resource it can to try to keep the population at a safe and healthy level. One of those tools that still remains a necessity in that effort, is placing baits for hunters to hunt over. It’s not how I would personally choose to bear hunt, but I understand the need to reduce the number of bears and I would never attempt to prevent anyone from participating in a legal hunting activity simply to force them to accept my ideology. That is selfish, childish, and actions of a fool.

The overwhelming majority of bears taken during the hunting and trapping seasons are done so with the use of bait. Baiting bears may not be the weapon of choice in controlling bear numbers, but until such time as the MDIFW is able to find another way of controlling bears, the managers in Augusta have continued to promote the need for this harvest tool.

Without baiting bears, harvest numbers, more than likely, would be reduced by at least half, adding even more and more bears to forests and fields that would indeed increase the already troublesome bear and human encounters that pose a threat to human safety.

Recently I read yet another Letter to the Editor in a Maine newspaper from one of those loud-mouthed, spoiled totalitarians who hates anything he doesn’t agree with…including hunting, fishing, and trapping.

If this man had his way, all hunting, fishing, and trapping would end and he would import wolves, mountain lions, and probably saber-toothed tigers.

He is one of those totalitarians who can’t seem to find real science to support his agenda and so he relies on the echo-chambers of the scientismist’s to promote false, outcome-based, bought and paid for, unprovable theories to promote his agenda to put an end to bear hunting and other pet projects.

His latest “petition” to the State of Maine, to change the rules of bear hunting, would, over a 10-year period of time, outlaw what he has now chosen to call bear “feeding” instead of calling it what it really is…which is bear baiting as part of the necessary process to reduce bear populations.

It appears the reason for petitioner’s upside down and backwards approach to lying to the public about bears and wildlife science, surrounds around the false, outcome-based, over-simplified, study, done in extremely general terms with no specificity in the study that is used as a broad, sweeping, brush stroke across all species, that when there is ample “food” available for wildlife, it causes those species to reproduce at higher than “normal” rates. Even to the effect that such dynamics might exist, there is no science that indicates, because it is near impossible to do, what, if any, the rate of increase in reproduction would be.

Evidently, the author of the petition now believes that if he calls bear baiting, bear feeding, it somehow has a different affect on the bears and their population, but more importantly it probably will have a false affect on public opinion and I’m sure that is what he is hoping to achieve.

In his Letter to the Editor, the author claims that bears in Maine now exceed the “natural carrying capacity” by 10,000 bears, but offers no information as to what this claim is based on. Carrying capacity, a complex algorithm to determine how many of any species of wildlife is desired by wildlife managers to live within any given habitat and/or ecosystem, cannot be implemented in shear numbers. It’s far to sophisticated which can become extremely troublesome.

No matter the complexity of carrying capacities, the petitioner blames the fact that his claim of 10,000 too many bears is the fault of MDIFW, bear hunters, and guides who use “food” for attracting bears for hunting.

The fact that actual bear baiting involves a very small comparative geographic region, including lots of bear habitat, that any “feeding” of bears for hunting purposes is so negligible it is not thought to have any real effect on the state’s bear population. To even suggest placing baits within strategic hunting locations would “feed” enough of the estimated 50,000 bears to effect bear reproduction is actually quite a silly supposition and certainly any such suggestion is not, and cannot be supported by actual science.

This totalitarian, in his insistent ignorance, states matter of factly: “Feeding bears produces more bears. This is the science.” He then demands an end to the state’s “bear feeding program.”

Only a fool, and there are too many of them, would claim that feeding bears produces more bears and that it is proven science. It is not. It is not as simple as that. One of the most difficult aspects of managing wildlife is the fact that everything about what we like to call an ecosystem is constantly changing with almost none of the changing things something that we, as managers, can control. All we really have at our disposal are well-planned, science-based hunting seasons to control populations. Even those proved problematic at times.

At best, our wildlife managers try to figure out how many of any game species there are and then to go about doing what is needed to keep those populations under control for the health of the species and for public safety. I don’t very often let the MDIFW off without having my say, but right now, I agree with them that they NEED to be able to use baiting bears to control the population. I also think that if the MDIFW believed baiting bears was causing the population to grow, they would end the practice. They have repeatedly stated the need to kill more bears. I think they have other methods available to them but refuse to use them due to social demands…which is wrong on many counts. One might think a large group of biologists and wildlife managers have more collective knowledge about how bears reproduce than one disgruntled man.

If the bear population in Maine was so low, the managers would put an end to hunting and trapping them. They do this with any game species. I would support that move providing the MDIFW has the data to show the need. Right now, the MDIFW has the data to show more bears need to be harvested each season and “feeding” bears (use of bait) is not what is causing the bears to grow in numbers.

Give it rest already and let’s encourage the MDIFW to provide more bear hunting opportunities…the ONLY way to reduce those “10,000” bears.

Below is a copy of the suggested rule changes for bear baiting and bear hunting. I would encourage as many as possible to contact the MDIFW, as there is a comment period, and share your thoughts and ideas about this petition. Thanks!

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Maine’s Bear Hunt Falls Short of Harvest “Hope and Change”

Understanding that the Maine black bear hunting season is not yet over and what is left generally produces very little increase in the the total harvest, it appears that the black bear harvest will fall far short of hoped-for numbers.

According to the live harvest data on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s (MDIFW) web page, the current black bear harvest stands at 2,241, nearly 1,100 short of last years total bear harvest. Compared with the last 5 years, it appears this year’s take will come up well short of that average.

Yes, the blame will be placed on the reality that there was abundant natural food for the bears and history seems to have taught us that because baiting of bears is the most successful way to take them, when there is abundant natural food, bears aren’t so much interested in a bait pile.

Okay, so we get that. Isn’t this another thing that, as game managers, we have no control over? And because we have no control over certain things, isn’t it responsible to take better and different actions that would better guarantee that a bear harvest would meet harvest goals as part of a responsible management program?

One might think.

But, the MDIFW and the Maine Legislature have failed, once again, to take any meaningful and responsible action to make sure that the bear harvest meets goals necessary to keep the population in check so as not to continue to increase public safety issues as well as the impact bears are having on the dwindling deer population (even though managers are telling us there are plenty of deer) in parts of the state where the bear population is very healthy numbers wise. There is a correlation…isn’t there?

The Maine Legislature either would not pass or postponed any action to address the burgeoning bear population. As I asked earlier, is the Maine Legislature liable for damages, injuries, and death caused by an irresponsibly grown population of black bears? Is the MDIFW liable because they refuse to buck the outfitters and guides in the state who refuse to work with the state in reasonable ways and responsibleness to bring the bear population in check?

I walk down the street. I see a hole. I fall in it………..

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The Aging Population of Hunters

Early this morning I was reading V. Paul Reynolds article in the newspaper about the importance of mentoring young people toward an interest in the long-time tradition of hunting. I’m not sure I can any add anything to the cause and effect or offer any great solution to the problem. I can relate my own experience as an example of the changes in hunting heritage over the past 45 years.

It was nearly 45 years ago that I received an invitation to a Maine hunting camp, comprised mostly of extended family members who lived in Western Maine. I accepted the invitation but I was also informed that I might not be able to find room enough anywhere in the camp to spread a bedroll. You might be wondering just how small is this camp? Well, it isn’t “big” but at that time hunters taking up residence for the entire week at Hunting Camp numbered around 12, and I recall at least on one occasion a camper was hauled in to handle the overflow.

Of the better than one dozen hunters claiming a sleeping spot, just as many hunters came and hunted a day here and there and maybe hung around for the evening meal.

Those were the days.

Back in the hay day, those of us out of school and working for a living, always, somehow, found a way to take time off to go to Hunting Camp. It was tradition. It was fun, exciting, and it was an extremely important part of life in Maine. The meat and potatoes of Hunting Camp residents for the week was comprised of those of us in the late teens and early twenties. The “fathers” were the aging mentors of the group and when any school-age hunter could convince Mom to “play hooky” they came to camp, as well as on any holiday and Saturday.

Today, at this same family hunting camp, we struggle to find 6 hunters there to hunt the week. And of those six hunters, the youngest is now over 60. Nobody shows up to check the “Meat Pole” and never any hunters just for the day. I don’t remember the last time any school-aged children came to Hunting Camp to hunt. So what has happened?

Many, many things. A progressive society has been very successful in brainwashing our children with negative ideas about the “violence” of hunting and the “rights of animals.” This goes a very long way in making it difficult to get young people interested in hunting…even when Dad or Mom hunted growing up and still do.

I could make a grocery list of all the reasons hunting is a dying event and another list of things I think might help, but the bottom line is that it is a nearly insurmountable task until such time as society as a whole finds value in the hunting tradition.

I wouldn’t look for any big changes.

As a matter of fact, the way things are changing, I would begin looking for a real good place to hide my hunting rifle(s) because “THEY” are going to be coming to get those pretty soon.

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It Is Hunting Season. Enjoy It While It Lasts

The hunting seasons are upon us. A long tradition and heritage of hunting, as part of a decent wildlife management program, prompts fewer and fewer people to take up the event. Combined with the pressures coming from a post-normal totalitarian society of love of animal over love of neighbor, threatens what was once a valued near right of passage.

No longer do people quietly go about their own business of living a life of their own convictions. They are programmed to go to war and put their boots to other’s throats in every attempt to force their preferences onto to others. They just can’t live in peace and let others do the same.

Such is today’s existence. Hunting is threatened in many ways and at the rate things are going, there will be no hunting, trapping, and fishing perhaps before my lifetime is complete.

What a shame!

So, I highly recommend that hunters, particularly those who have hung up their rifles, preferring to make gobs of money, dust off that symbol of freedom and outdoor enjoyment, and get into the woods as much as possible for that pleasure will soon be yanked out from under us, much the same as other rights and privileges.

This is NOT the America I grew up in.

God must be ashamed of our actions…and yet, he is always there to forgive.

I am taking to the woods! See you there where it is peaceful and quiet…for now.

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Maine Fish and Game One Step Further Out of the Dark Ages

In several years in Maine, the fish and game department (MDIFW) has gone from taking several months (sometimes over a year) to tabulate deer, bear, moose, and turkey harvest information, to now where anyone can visit the MDIFW website and receive instant harvest data in total or broken down by Wildlife Management District.

THANK YOU!!! It’s about time.

Even when MDIFW announced it was tagging digitally and the department (and select others) could get the harvest information, it seemed MDIFW was in the dark that the public was interested in having access to that same information. I wondered if the department ever planned to do that or keep good control over some of us by making us beg for data.

And so, here we are! Click on this link – https://maine.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/199555de2ee14d94a6186d9e07453e05 – and to the left you will see up-to-date harvest data for the entire state, for deer, bear, moose, and turkey. Click on the WMD shown in the Maine map to get a breakdown of each WMD.

I am very grateful that MDIFW has chosen to do this…although I am a bit puzzled by a comment from the MDIFW Wildlife Director, printed in the Bangor Daily News. The director said: “We just realized that there was a lot of interest in having that information (harvest data from their digital tagging system). Seriously? “We just realized…?”

MDIFW was so terrible at providing hunters with any current harvest data, they were the laughing stock around many coffee tables in coffee shops statewide. And NOW, they just realized?

Okay, so I guess for some it just takes a long time to wake up. So, good morning!! And, thank you for allowing the tax payers to have access to information we have paid for.

So, now what am I going to bitch about?

Oh, OKAY! How about this? Being that this event is one of the biggest deals to come out of MDIFW in a very long time, why is there no Press Release posted on their website? Back in July, there was a PR announcing an appointment to the position of Information and Education Director. Has that position not been filled and is not active yet?

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An Ethical Shot?

I was reading V. Paul Reynolds very good article the other day about how important it is when hunting moose, to do your best in placing a killing shot. What I got thinking about though was the idea that so many writers/hunters/trappers these days put emphasis on the term of an “ethical” shot or “ethical” kill.

Let’s first examine the definition of the term “ethical.” By definition, ethical means: “relating to moral principles or the branch of knowledge dealing with these. Morally good or correct. Avoiding activities or organizations that do harm to people or the environment.”

Hmmm! It seems we need to examine what “moral” means. “Concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.” Er, ah… or maybe: “Examining the nature of ethics and the foundations of good and bad character and conduct.”

Getting closer: “Holding or manifesting high principles for proper conduct.”

I think this one pretty much covers what drives comments about “taking an ethical shot” when hunting. “Concerned with or derived from the code of interpersonal behavior that is considered right or acceptable in a particular society.”

So, essentially an “ethical” shot means one that accomplishes the “morally good” conduct that meets the standing acceptable behavior in this particular society at this particular moment.

Perfect! Not really. It’s hogwash!

Geez! If we are going to get all “moral” about this issue of shooting and killing, then perhaps those opposed to hunting have some valid ground to stand on. I mean, seriously. Is killing anything “morally ethical” in this “particular society?”

We hunt for various reasons. To be successful hunters must kill. We hope the kill is quick, for more reasons than just “ethical.” Some practice their skill of hitting a target. Some are better equipped to make “ethical” kills than others. They have better eyes and coordination to make a quick “ethical” kill.

But let’s face it. When we pull the trigger are we really thinking about ethics? Or are we thinking much of anything except we hope we make the shot and not have to chase our prey all day?

I understand the desire of many to not allow any animal that is a resource to suffer when being taken. I think it is dishonest to lay the term “ethical” onto any taking. I think it is more ethical to be honest about the truth than to place some conjured term to the act of shooting to kill.

Perhaps we can find a better more honest word or term to describe simply a quick kill. Oh, hey! Why not “quick kill?”

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Land Access: “There Ought to be a Law!”

A few years back, while speaking to a group of elk breeders in Iowa at their national convention, I began my talk by asking for a show of hands from any and all who ever made the exclamation, there ought to be a law. Most raised their hands. The rest were lying…LOL.

In our post-normal existence we have eagerly created, without supporting evidence we reactively rush toward the creation of more limits, bans, and regulations falsely believing such actions will actually alter human behavior and make for a better, safer life. Does it? Do the majority of Americans heed such laws intended to make our world a better place to live?

Not exactly! Have you been out on the highways lately? This is but one example of how laws, intended to make things safer, are failing at breakneck speed. Everyone is speeding. Everyone is running stop signs and traffic lights. Everyone is tailgating. Everyone is passing on the wrong side. Everyone is texting. These are examples of laws intended to make the highways safer to be on and yet the proof is in what you see…total disregard of the laws. So, why do we insist more laws will work?

Does this same thumbing of the nose happen with all other laws? Of course it does and yet, we, in our programmed reactionary behavior insist on making more laws, limits, and bans anytime something happens that we think could have been avoided…especially if we had more laws.

A tragedy occurred in Maine two years ago when a young woman was on her own land during deer hunting season and was shot an killed. The shooter admitted he failed to follow the “rule of law” that demands a hunter identify his/her target before pulling the trigger. While this law is more of an educational reminder of the ultimate responsibility of the one with the gun in their hand, it does not prevent mistakes nor will it stop anyone intent on killing for whatever the reasons.

The editorial board of the Bangor Daily News suggests that Maine needs to review its hunter land access laws and consider a requirement that all hunters seek written permission from a landowner before hunting on that person’s land.

A land owner should be able to control who and how anyone accesses their land. They presently have that control at their fingertips by utilizing an existing law of posting signs of no or limited access. Yes, the onus is placed on the landowner to spend the money for signs and put the signs out. Perhaps there are better ways to assist a landowner in accomplishing this task.

The bottom line is this, will posting the land keep people off the property and will it prevent a tragedy like the one that happened two years ago? It will not stop the person who is intent on entering someone’s land whether it’s posted or not. Unless land is posted all the way around, what is to stop anyone from accessing partially posted land?

The question here is whether or not making or changing the law that would require written permission to access land would have prevented a killing like the one in Maine two years ago? We might be creating ourselves a false sense of security, causing the landowner, who may falsely believe their land is 100% safe to be on during hunting season. In actuality, a new law may be making things worse.

One could argue that it is the hunters’ responsibility to know where boundary lines are regardless of what the access laws and restrictions may be. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to know where every boundary is and if you cross, even a well-marked property line, whose it is. If I unknowingly cross a poorly marked property line, would I be in violation of the law?

Hunting is a very safe activity. It is not fool proof. To err is human as the old expression goes. We will never correct that regardless of how many laws are made.

So, let’s consider the problems that will mount if Maine decided to enact a law that would require written permission before access…for any reason. Which brings us to another question about such a proposed law. Would such a law discriminate against hunters and be in effect only during hunting seasons? Assuming a new law requiring written permission would be permanent and year-round, what kind of mess is this going to create for the outdoorsman, the landowner, businesses geared toward outdoor recreation, and law enforcement? Will this new law be such that it places the landowner in a situation where they are constantly being asked for written permission? Will this form of harassment cause the landowner to avoid such and simply post their land, which they might not have done anyway – an added expense for the landowner.

Consider the large landowners of Maine – Irving, Pingree, Liberty Media Corp. (John Malone, who is based in Colorado). How are they going to handle a law where they have to hand out written permission for anyone to access their land? Or are they just going to shut it all down to avoid having to have another paid position to handle just dishing out land access permission slips?

How is law enforcement supposed to handle this new law? Is it even enforceable? Is what exists now really broken?

I own land. It’s not posted. If I go on my land during hunting season, I dress the same way as if I was hunting – with hunter orange. I never assume because I’m on my own land I am safe. Mistakes happen.

I don’t believe anyone is capable of grasping the extent of how Maine would change if the laws were changed that would require written permission to access private land. What economic impact will such a move have on Maine’s economy? One can argue that it might make it safer but such laws will not stop human error. Most all accidents happen due to human error. In that case, more and better education might limit and reduce those errors.

Before we make more laws to restrict land access, let’s first consider other ways to educate and remind hunters of their responsibility and to remind the people of Maine when hunting seasons are underway. Perhaps Maine could invest in public service announcements that would remind people about hunting seasons.

Let’s be practicably responsible and not create a bigger mess that may do little to make things safer.

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Deer Baiting Should Be Used Like Bear Baiting

George Smith in the Bangor Daily News, posted testimony from Rep. Paul Stearns arguing in favor of a bill that would allow for deer baiting. It appears not many people are in favor of such.

Stearns gives several reasons baiting of deer should be allowed, the most of which I disagree with. I have voiced opinion in the past that it seems ridiculous that it is legal to grow a crop specifically for deer to eat and then, while you can’t directly hunt “over” that crop you can hunt “near” it.

Maine allows for baiting of bear. The reason is that it is believed that baiting bear increases the success rate of harvesting a bear. This, at the current bear management strategy, is a desirable thing as the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has too many bears and management wants numbers reduced. This should be understandable but that is not always the case.

Does Maine have too many deer? Not by a long shot. However, there are some places in Maine that do have far too many deer. Many of these places do not get hunted and in some cases won’t get hunted for various reasons. It would seem that in such cases, allowing baiting of deer, to draw them to a shooting zone, would be an appropriate use of the tactic. Isn’t this what so-called “sharp shooters” do when hired to cull deer?

It makes sense that if the MDIFW retains as a management tool the authority to allow bear baiting, then shouldn’t they also retain the authority to allow deer baiting, or any other species, when the demands of responsible control and management of a species is necessary?

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Secretary Bernhardt Proposes Increasing Public Access to Hunting and Fishing on 1.4 Million Acres Nationwide

Proposal Includes New Opportunities at 74 National Wildlife Refuges and 15 National Fish Hatcheries

June 5, 2019

Contact(s):

Contact: Interior_Press@ios.doi.gov
Vanessa Kauffman, 703-358-2138, vanessa_kauffman@fws.gov


Oak Harbor, Ohio – Furthering the Trump Administration’s efforts to increase access to public lands, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt today announced from Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge a proposal for new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities at 74 national wildlife refuges and 15 national fish hatcheries managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) across more than 1.4 million acres.

“President Trump is committed to expanding public access on public lands, and this proposal is executing on that directive by opening and increasing more access to hunting and fishing by the Fish and Wildlife Service at more stations and across more acres than ever before,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “Hunting and fishing are more than just traditional pastimes as they are also vital to the conservation of our lands and waters, our outdoor recreation economy, and our American way of life. These refuges and hatcheries provide incredible opportunities for sportsmen and women and their families across the country to pass on a fishing and hunting heritage to future generations and connect with wildlife.”

The proposal would increase the number of units in the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System where the public may hunt from 377 to 382, and the number where fishing would be permitted would be increased from 312 to 316. The proposal would also formally open lands on 15 hatcheries of the National Fish Hatchery System to hunting or sport fishing for the first time.

The proposal also outlines a comprehensive revision and simplification of all refuge-specific hunting and fishing regulations in all 50 states to more closely match state regulations while continuing to ensure safe and compatible opportunities. The Service worked closely with the states in preparing the proposed rule.

“Well managed hunting and fishing are the backbone of conservation in this country, but inconsistent or overly complex regulations can act as a disincentive,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Margaret Everson. “By aligning our refuge regulations with our state partners, we are reducing confusion and the regulatory burden on the American public, helping ensure the tradition and benefits of hunting and fishing can continue.”

New proposed refuge opportunities include the opening of Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin to hunting and fishing for the first time and the opening of Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming to deer and elk hunting for the first time on lands already open to other hunting.

Proposed expansions of refuge opportunities include the opening of new acres at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida to existing upland and big game hunting, and, at Great River National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois and Missouri, the expansion of season dates, times and methods for existing deer, turkey and other upland game hunting to align with state seasons.

Proposed changes at hatcheries include the formal opening of lands on Leadville National Fish Hatchery in Colorado to migratory game bird, upland game and big game hunting, and the formal opening of lands on Iron River National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin to migratory game bird, upland game and big game hunting. Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery in Texas and Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery in Washington are proposing to formally open their lands to sport fishing. An update to hatchery regulations is also included in the proposed rule.

“The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies is delighted by this announcement of a continuing commitment by the Department of the Interior to expanded access for regulated hunting and angling, on National Wildlife Refuges, in partnership with state fish and wildlife agencies,” stated Ed Carter, President of the Association and Executive Director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. He added, “We need to get people outside to enjoy the lands and waters, and fish and wildlife resources, of our great nation. This is an important step in that direction!”

“The announcement today by Secretary Bernhardt is incredibly welcome news and builds off great progress in increasing access to refuge lands the last two years,” said John Devney, Senior Vice President, Delta Waterfowl. “Duck hunters have been leaders in investing in the refuge system and this action will provide them with new access and opportunities. We are sincerely grateful to Secretary Bernhardt and the Fish and Wildlife Service staff who have worked hard to create these new opportunities for hunters.”

“The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation applauds Secretary Bernhardt for his efforts to expand hunting and fishing opportunities within the National Wildlife Refuge System,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President Jeff Crane. “This announcement builds off momentum generated over the last few years through Interior Secretarial Orders, and advances recent recommendations submitted by the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council to increase hunter and angler access to federal lands and waters, including the Refuge System.”

Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic activity in communities across the United States in 2016, according to the Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years. More than 101 million Americans — 40 percent of the U.S. population age 16 and older — pursue wildlife-related recreation, including hunting and fishing.

The Service will seek comments from the public on the proposed rule for 45 days, beginning with publication in the Federal Register in coming days. The notice will be available at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-NWRS-2019-0040, and will include details on how to submit your comments. An interim copy of the proposed rule is now available.

The Service intends to finalize the proposed changes in time for the upcoming 2019-2020 hunting seasons.

A complete list of all refuges and hatcheries in the proposal is available in the proposed rule and online.

For more than 145 years, the National Fish Hatchery System has worked collaboratively with tribes, states, landowners, partners and stakeholders to promote and maintain healthy, self-sustaining populations of fish and other aquatic species. There are 70 national fish hatcheries visited by more than two million people each year. Hatcheries offer opportunities for viewing the operations and learning about fish, as well as activities such as fishing, hunting, hiking, sightseeing, nature study, birdwatching and photography.

The Refuge System is an unparalleled network of 567 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas. More than 55 million Americans visit refuges every year. National wildlife refuges provide vital habitat for thousands of species and access to world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and boating to nature watching, photography and environmental education.

Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the Service permits hunting and fishing along with four other types of wildlife-dependent recreation, including wildlife photography, environmental education, wildlife observation and interpretation, when they are compatible with an individual refuge’s purpose and mission. Hunting, within specified limits, is currently permitted on 340 wildlife refuges and 37 wetland management districts. Fishing is currently permitted on 278 wildlife refuges and 34 wetland management districts.

The Service manages hunting and fishing programs to ensure sustainable wildlife populations while also offering other wildlife-dependent recreation on public lands.

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Night, Night Hunters

I have just read an article on one of my favorite outdoor sites, Sporting Classics Daily.  The article was titled, “Conservation Funding and Firearms” by Craig Springer, External Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Southwest Region.

I first read this article when I was in high school (over 60 years ago) when I was memorizing articles by Robert Ruark, and every item and its cost in the Herter’s Catalog.  Today, it has been perverted into propaganda meant to seduce any awareness in hunters, state wildlife agencies and hunter’s organizations about what is happening to hunting and this once-proud program, the Pittman-Robertson Excise Tax on Arms and Ammunition.  Whether you think this article to be a simple oversight, ignorance, a bid for a bonus or a bona fide deception: I leave to you.

While the article was true those many years ago and properly whetted a young man’s imagination and energy toward hunting, shooting and possibly a job one day: today the article is a stale clip of a bygone era and a glimpse of how it is being used by that herd called “The Swamp” with their Hidden Agendas running amok.  It details all the money collected and disbursed to State wildlife programs (the only beneficiaries, supposedly, of the funds) by law.  It chirps about putting “gas in a biologist’s truck” and “bobwhite quail traps in Oklahoma” giving the impression that the increased funding does as much or more than it did for Dad or Grandpa – nothing could be farther from the truth.  The funding source itself, the use of the funds and the goals of the modern wildlife bureaucrats, both state and federal, being paid by the Excise Tax dollars are such today that a good case could be made that hunters and Rural America would be better off without the program entirely.  Other than serving as one more good reason (of many) why the 2ndAmendment must be protected and preserved; the wildlife benefits to hunters and Rural America are, to quote Ross Perot describing the loss of jobs to NAFTA, “a giant sucking sound” off in the distance.

Let me describe some of the ways this once great program has been savaged and distorted:

1.    In the early 1990’s, Congress refused a Request from US Fish and Wildlife Service to authorize and fund the capture of Canadian wolves to release in the Rocky Mountains.  When Congress refused, USFWS clandestinely “took” (stole is a better word) $45 to 60 Million from the funds and released wolves into Yellowstone National Park (from which they spread in every direction).  Leftover funds were used to open a USFWS Office in California that Congress had also refused to fund; and to give bonuses to USFWS managers involved in the illicit funding uses.  When a GAO Audit revealed the misuse of the funds to a US House of Representatives Committee, after a flurry of activity ala Lois Lerner et al, the responsible USFWS managers went on to be Directors and high-paid Executives of environmental lobby groups.  The state wildlife agency Directors that along with you, me and the state wildlife programs never asked for the money to be replaced.  I suggest that not only was this a visible flame 20 years ago of the advanced degree of corruption corroding the state/federal/radical groups “Complex” to use Ike’s term: it was a clear signal to others like ATF in Fast and Furious, Lois Lerner in IRS, and the FBI/Federal Intelligence network in the past three years to, “do what you want, nobody gets in trouble anymore”.

2.    The program has been diverted into a quasi-preservation effort of government force on behalf of animal communities that while not in any trouble should get as much attention as game animals according to New Age wildlife “professionals”.  Think of it as a sort of socialism for critters wherein Excise tax (and license revenue) is forcibly taken from the management of those animals that “have” and given to those animals that “have not”, somewhat like a progressive tax scheme that will ostensibly make everyone “equal”.  To say that game animals and hunting have not suffered greatly in this “Robin Hood-like redirection of the Excise taxes generated by Arms and Ammunition Sales” is simply an ideological rejection of truth and facts. This was made possible by some federal/state wordsmithing of regulations almost 30 years ago that no one, not even the NRA saw fit to oppose.  Words like “game” were simply transformed to “wildlife” which in a legal sense covers a multitude of sins.  When I read Mr. Springer’s piece I looked to see how he would handle or avoid this fact.  At the end of his long list (first written 60 years ago) about mule deer, bobwhite, et al; the last phrase was, and “habitats restored benefiting multitudes of organisms”.  Yo, anyone awake out there?

3.    The Excise Tax funding and the License Revenue have been increasingly diverted in almost half the states and growing in recent years into Lawsuits, depredation Complaints, propagandizing incidences, denying the reason moose and elk (and their hunting) are disappearing, teaching kids prevarications about predators and generally concocting nonsense for public consumption like, “the wolf that attacked the young man had a ‘deformed brain’” and “the moose season is closed forever because of climate change” (as though moose failed to adapt to eating coconuts and mangoes) because of forcibly imposed federal wolves laughingly called “Endangered” or “Threatened”.  This all costs millions of Excise Tax and License Revenue dollars that are purposely under-reported by unaudited state and federal agencies.  My estimate of the under-reporting (as a former National Wildlife Refuge Operations Chief, Program Coordinator, Program Analysts and wildlife biologist) is that the state and federal agencies only report 25-30% of the costs and thereby minimize any signs of hunters and Rural Americans waking up to what is going on like Rip Van Winkle.

4.    The current scam to further drain Excise Tax funding and dwindling hunting License Revenue is for the federal government to “Return Wolf Management” to the States.  This is a comedy skit in more ways than one.  Forcing wolves back into states where they were purposely and at great expense exterminated over a century ago and calling it “Returning Management” is reminiscent of the man that killed his mother and father and then threw himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan.  In other words it takes a certain amount of chutzpah.  States will now be expected to “Maintain Wolves”; answer depredation calls; pay (?) compensation; explain why game is disappearing without using the words “predator” or “wolf”; tell dog owners to keep their dogs in or on a leash or expect a wolf to kill or (in certain cases) to mate with them; fight lawsuits; and pay for pre-determined research to explain why neither they nor the wolves are responsible for the ensuing chaos and safety concerns of Rural Americans from hunters to hikers, campers, birdwatchers, kids at school bus stops and older ladies walking to rural mailboxes or outbuildings.  This means MORE Excise Tax Revenue and MORE of the dwindling (for reasons of human safety and disappearing game) Hunting License Revenue diverted not only away from game but to expand an agenda meant to do away with game, guns, hunting, ranching and a vibrant Rural America.

5.    How many of these USFWS do-gooders are explaining that more gun controls and ammunition quotas will seriously defund state wildlife programs?  Where are the state wildlife agencies and their political overlords spreading the same truths?  Where have you seen any explanation of what all this diversion of funds is doing?  Or what wolf management or non-game handouts are taking from hunting and game?  What is the alternative after most game hunting Revenue is gone?  When gun and ammunition purchase, importation and use is all but obliterated.  Will we just close down the state agencies and simply have a federal wildlife authority funded from General revenue?  For what purpose?  Will states just start paying for the “biologist” and His/Her “truck and gas”?  Why would anyone spend anything on deer or ducks or grouse? Why would anyone spend money on frogs or snakes?  Where would any money come from year after year after year?  When the wolf kills the dog or the grizzly bear kills the camper who does what in an unarmed Rural America?  How?  Who is responsible?  Who has the answer?

This could be longer but my fingers are getting tired.  I just opened my window onto a fine spring day to hear the reporters working on the Excise Tax/Hunting License Revenue issue; the future of state and federal wildlife programs; and the role of predators in our brave new world. I listened for the Hunting, Dog and Livestock organizations fighting gun and ammunition controls, wolves and federal grizzlies.  I cupped my hands over my ears to hear the bureaucrats speaking out for the 2nd Amendment and what needs to be done about dwindling game animal populations.  I leaned out to hear the state and federal politicians fighting for hunters, ranchers, dog owners and Rural America (what’s that, they sound like their cheering for the environmental extremists and animal rights radicals?)  I tried to hear the honest scientists advocating sensible predator management, game animal use and management, and the establishment of compatible wildlife communities that enhance human rural communities rather than discouraging and diminishing them.

But, all I heard were crickets and besides, I am tired of reading 60 year-old articles about how good things are going out there so I might as well take a nap too.

Jim Beers

26 March 2019

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Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC.  He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands.  He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC.  He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority.  He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.

Jim Beers is available to speak or for consulting.

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