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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

June 17, 1999
Chris Tollefson202-208-5634

SERVICE PROPOSES NEW DUCK SEASON FRAMEWORKS

Seeking to provide stability for states and to facilitate science-based waterfowl management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its proposed alternatives for the upcoming duck season today.

The proposed alternatives, when finalized, will establish the permitted opening and closing dates, maximum season lengths, and bag limits for state duck seasons. State wildlife agencies will then establish individual state duck seasons within those guidelines.

Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark said the proposed rule will essentially continue the conditions in place for the 1998-99 season, giving the Service time to evaluate those conditions and their effect on waterfowl populations. "This rule will give states certainty as we work to find a biologically sound consensus for adjusting future frameworks," she said.

Last year, Congress approved language allowing six Southern states to extend their duck seasons past the approved closure date, the Sunday nearest January 20, in exchange for a 9-day reduction in season length. Based upon this language, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee chose to extend their seasons (with the 9-day offset) to January 31 to meet the desires of their hunting publics.

Recocgnizing the desire of Congress and hunters in these three states, the proposed rule would establish a January 31 framework closing date for Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, with a season date of 51 days. The 9-day reduction in season length is necessary to offset the increase in duck harvest that is expected when hunters in those states are allowed to take birds later in January.

For all states except Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, framework opening and closing dates under all alternatives would remain unchanged from those published in the August 5, 1998, Federal Register. The closing date will continue to be January 20 in the Atlantic Flyway and the Sunday nearest January 20 in the other flyways. The Service proposes to continue these framework dates and season lengths through the 2002-2003 season in an attempt to stabilize frameworks so its Adaptive Harvest Management process can function properly to provide the greatest opportunity for all hunters.

Adaptive Harvest Management was instituted in 1995 to help managers better understand the effects of hunting while providing maximum harvest opportunities consistent with waterfowl populations. An essential feature of the process is a set of alternatives, including framework dates, season lengths, and bag limits, that balances hunting opportunities with efforts to achieve waterfowl populations identified in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

Ducks and other migratory birds generally migrate along four "flyways"--the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific. The Service, which has responsibility for managing migratory birds under the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, works cooperatively with the four flyway councils, made up of state representatives, to establish regulatory frameworks on season length, framework dates, and bag limits for waterfowl hunting seasons. The flyway councils make formal recommendations to the Service each summer but the Service has the ultimate authority to set the frameworks. States choose their seasons and bag limits within the frameworks authorized by the Service.

The Service will accept comments on the proposed alternatives through July 2. Comments may be sent to Chief, Office of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 634, Arlington, Virginia 22203.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices, and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.


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