Joshua Winchell, 202/208.5634
On Friday, July 28, 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed liberal hunting regulations for the upcoming 2006-2007 late waterfowl seasons due to improved habitat conditions and waterfowl production estimates. Hunting season lengths will be 60 days in both the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways, 74 days in the Central Flyway, and 107 days in the Pacific Flyway.
"Based on improved breeding habitat conditions and an improved outlook for production in many breeding areas, the agency adopted the 'liberal package,' " said Service Director H. Dale Hall. "Good to excellent conditions in the northern grasslands and parklands of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and above average precipitation in previously dry portions of Southern Alberta will benefit many prairie-nesting species this year. The exception is in the Dakotas."
When compared to last year, there will be an extra hooded merganser in the daily bag limit in three eastern flyways. The canvasback and pintail daily bag limit will be one for the entire season. Last year's reduction in the daily bag limit to two scaup in the Atlantic, Mississippi and Central Flyways and three in the Pacific Flyway will remain unchanged.
"The scaup population has experienced a significant long-term decline and this year's estimate is the lowest on record," said Hall. "The Service is proposing to continue the reduction on the daily bag limit it established last year in all flyways. We may need to consider additional restrictions in the future if the trend continues."
Highlights of the proposed frameworks (states select their season from within the frameworks or the outer limits of season length, bag limits and season beginning and ending date) include:
· Hunters in the Atlantic, Mississippi and Central Flyways will be allowed two hooded mergansers per day; and
· The Central Flyway will initiate a three year evaluation of the Hunter's Choice duck bag limit.
"It is also important to consider what hunters think about waterfowl regulations in developing the season proposals," said Hall. "Until now, wildlife managers did not have data to quantify this. Thanks to efforts by the National Flyway Council and the Wildlife Management Institute and completion of The National Duck Hunter Survey 2005, that information is available and was used in development of these frameworks. It will help us recruit and retain duck hunters and allow managers to fine tune the regulations process."
The survey is available at www.ducksurvey.com.
The Service also published its proposed early season waterfowl hunting regulations in Friday's Federal Register. Under these regulations, the special September teal season is available between September 1 and September 30, and may not exceed nine consecutive days in the Atlantic Flyway and 16 days in the Mississippi and Central Flyways. The daily bag limit is four teal. The seasons for Canada goose, youth hunting days, sea ducks, snipe, woodcock, rails, common moorhens and purple gallinules, sandhill cranes, band-tailed pigeons, mourning doves, white-winged and white-tipped doves and falconry will continue with little change from last year.
Both the early and late season waterfowl frameworks appear in the Federal Register for public comment and on:
The early season regulations will post today. The late season posted Friday.
Audio recording of season highlights is available at http://www.doi.gov/audio.html.
Highlights of the proposed late-season frameworks are as follows:
Atlantic Flyway: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia
Ducks: A hunting season is proposed of not more than 60 days between September 23, 2006, and January 28, 2007. The proposed daily bag limit is six and may include no more than four mallards (two hens), two wood ducks, two scaup, two redheads, two hooded mergansers, one black duck, one pintail, one mottled duck, one fulvous whistling duck, one canvasback, and four scoters. The season on harlequin ducks is closed.
Geese: For light geese, states would be able to select a 107-day season between October 1, 2006, and March 10, 2007, with a daily bag limit of 15 geese and no possession limit. For Atlantic Population Canada geese, the proposed season this year will allow portions of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Vermont and New York to hold a 45-day season between October 28, 2006, and January 31, 2007 with a three-bird daily bag limit. Delaware, Maryland and Virginia (except Back Bay, Virginia) will be allowed to hold a 45-day season in Atlantic Population areas between November 15, 2006 and January 31, 2007, with a two-bird bag limit. Back Bay, Virginia, and the Northeast Hunt Unit of North Carolina would be able to select a 30-day season between December 25 and January 27, 2007 with a two-bird daily bag and a one-bird per season respectively. In Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Long Island, New York, a 60-day season on North Atlantic Population Canada geese is proposed between October 1, 2006, and February 15, 2007, with a three-bird daily bag limit. Special or experimental seasons and regular seasons to harvest resident and other populations of migratory Canada geese would be authorized in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. For Atlantic brant, the season length may be 30 days with a daily bag limit of two.
Mississippi Flyway: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin
Ducks: A hunting season is proposed of not more than 60 days between September 23, 2006, and January 28, 2007. The proposed daily bag limit is six and may include no more than four mallards (two hens), three mottled ducks, two scaup, two wood ducks, two redheads, one black duck, one pintail, and one canvasback. The proposed daily bag limit of mergansers is five, only two of which may be hooded mergansers.
Geese: Generally, seasons for Canada geese would be held between September 23, 2006, and January 31, 2007, and vary in length among States and areas, with daily bag limits varying from one to three. States would be able to select seasons for light geese not to exceed 107 days with 20 geese daily between September 23, 2006, and March 10, 2007; for white-fronted geese this proposed season would not to exceed 72 days with a two-bird daily bag limit or 86 days with a one-bird daily bag limit between September 23, 2006, and February 8, 2007; and for brant it would not exceed 70 days with a two-bird daily bag limit or 107 days with a one- bird daily bag limit between September 23, 2006, and January 31, 2007. There would be no possession limit for light geese.
Central Flyway: Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and portions of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming
Ducks: Duck seasons are proposed to be held between September 23, 2006, and January 28, 2007. In the High Plains Mallard Management Unit (roughly west of the 100th Meridian), a 97-day season is proposed. The last 23 days would be able to start no earlier than December 9, 2006. A 74-day season is proposed for the remainder of the Central Flyway. This is the first year of a proposed 3-year evaluation of the Hunter's Choice duck bag limit in the Central Flyway. The Hunter's Choice bag limit is an aggregate bag of which only one duck from the following may be taken: hen mallard, canvasback, pintail, or mottled duck. Hunter's Choice regulations are intended to reduce the harvest of all the species included in the one-bird bag, while maintaining full hunting opportunity on abundant species such as drake mallards.
Five States (North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Kansas, and Texas) have been randomly assigned to have Hunter's Choice regulations and the remaining 5 States (Montana, Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico) will serve as controls (season within a season regulations for canvasbacks and pintails) as the evaluation proceeds. The season length would be 74 days. Within the High Plains Mallard Management Unit, an additional 23 days of season would be available, provided that these days are taken starting no earlier than December 9, 2006. In Montana, Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, the daily bag limit shall be 6 ducks, with species and sex restrictions as follows: mallard - five, no more than two of which may be females; redhead, scaup, wood duck - two; pintail, mottled duck, canvasback - one. For pintails and canvasbacks, the season length would be 39 days, which may be split according to applicable zones/split duck hunting configurations approved for each state. The possession limit would be twice the daily bag limit.
In North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Kansas, and Texas, the daily bag limit would be five ducks, with species and sex restrictions as follows: scaup, redhead and wood duck - two; only one duck from the following group - hen mallard, mottled duck, pintail, canvasback. The possession limit would be twice the daily bag.
Geese: Under the proposal, States may select seasons between September 23, 2006 and February 18, 2007 for dark geese and between September 23, 2006 and March 10, 2007 for light geese. East tier states would be able to select a 107-day season for Canada geese season with a daily bag limit of three. For white-fronted geese, states would be able to select either a 72-day season with a daily bag limit of two birds or an 86-day season with a daily bag limit of one bird. In the West Tier, states may select a 107-day dark- goose season with a daily bag limit of five birds. In the Western Goose Zone of Texas, the State would be able to select a 95-day season with a daily bag limit of three dark geese (including no more than one white-fronted goose). Colorado would be able to select a 95-day season with an aggregate bag limit of three. For light geese, all states would be able to select a 107-day season with a daily bag limit of 20 and no possession limit.
Pacific Flyway: Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and portions of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming
Ducks: Under the proposal, states are allowed 107-day season between September 23, 2006, and January 28, 2007. The proposed daily bag limit is seven ducks, including no more than two mallard hens, two redheads, three scaup, one pintail and one canvasback.
Geese: 100-day seasons are proposed for California, Oregon, and Washington, with outside dates between September 30, 2006, and March 10, 2007. Proposed basic daily bag limits are four light geese and four dark geese, except in California, Oregon, and Washington, where the dark goose bag limit does not include brant. 107-day seasons, with outside dates between September 23, and January 28 would be able to be selected in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Proposed basic daily bag limits are four light geese and four dark geese. Other restrictions vary by State and zone. For brant, the proposed season lengths are 16 days in Oregon and Washington and 30 days in California, with a two-bird daily limit. Washington and California would be able to choose seasons in each of two zones.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 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, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.