July 15, 2002
Larry Mallard, 870/946-1468
Ray Paterra, 870/946-1468
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service has finalized its commercial waterfowl guiding program
River National Wildlife Refuge in DeWitt, AR, for the 2002/2003
waterfowl hunting season. The refuge will be offering 17 special use
permits to commercial hunt guides in an objective lottery system. The
permits will have an annual renewal for up to three years with the ability
for all eligible commercial guide hunters to apply. The Service believes
that this program is a balanced approach to addressing the demands for
commercial guide services, while meeting the growing needs of non-guided
This program is the preferred alternative that was proposed on May 3,
2002 in a draft Environmental Assessment that was released for public
comment. The Service held two public meetings and received 77 comments.
In addition, the Service worked closely with the State of Arkansas in
developing and assessing the proposal. The Service is issuing the final
Environmental Assessment and supplementary documents today to explain
how the preferred alternative was selected.
"We provided extensive opportunities for the public to comment
on our proposal to manage commercial guide hunting at White River National
Wildlife Refuge," said Larry Mallard, Refuge Manager. "We
carefully considered all of the public's comments and concerns and believe
that the preferred alternative is the best approach to reduce conflicts
among commercial guide hunters, between commercial guides and non-guided
hunters, and provide a safe, high quality waterfowl hunting experience
for the public."
Interested commercial hunt guides should submit an application to White
River National Wildlife Refuge by August 12, 2002. All applications
will be considered, and a drawing for permits will take place on August
23, 2002, in time for the upcoming 2002/2003 waterfowl hunting season.
Permits will be issued for five hunting zones throughout the refuge
and were selected based on historical hunter use, suitable waterfowl
habitat, and water levels.
The Service undertook an assessment of the commercial guide hunting
issue on White
River National Wildlife starting in 2001 due to public concerns
about the increased demand for guide hunting permits and increased public
demand for waterfowl resources. The number of special use permits increased
substantially in the last four years, and reports of conflicts between
commercial guides and non-guided hunters have become more frequent.
The Service is committed to providing a safe, high quality hunt for
commercial guide hunters and non-guided hunters. The final EA provides
substantial information on the need for a managed approach to commercial
guide hunting on the refuge and a rationale for the preferred alternative.
For a copy of the final Environmental Assessment, which includes a
detailed summary of the decision making process, questions and answers,
the permit application, and all decision documents, please visit the
Applications may also be obtained by contacting White River National
Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 308, DeWitt, Arkansas 72042 or by telephone
at 870/946-1468. For more information about the Fish and Wildlife Service
in the Southeast, please visit our website at http://southeast.fws.gov.
Because this is a new program and uncertainties exist related to the
efficacy of the program, the Service has decided to limit the term of
the permit to one year. During this first year, the Service will monitor
and evaluate the program and implement any necessary modifications to
ensure program objectives are met in the future.
Summary -- Waterfowl Guiding Program on White River National Wildlife
and Answers for Commercial Waterfowl Guiding on White River National
NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via
e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at http://southeast.fws.gov.
Our national home page is at: http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases/.