Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Refuge Rural Non-Toxic Shot Team Nominated for Federal Team of the Year
Alaska Region, April 28, 2004
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The Rural Waterfowl Hunter Education Project Development Team was recognized by Regional Director Rowan Gould as the Alaska Region's Team of the Year. This team was established to help rural hunters find practical ways to reduce waterfowl lead poisoning and wounding losses. The team has demonstrated exceptional ability to design and develop partnerships, recruit and train volunteer instructors, and gain trust and support from rural hunters and village elders. During 2003, they provided education and outreach to 517 rural hunters in 23 Alaska villages and are playing a substantial role in gaining improved compliance with nontoxic-shot waterfowl hunting regulations in rural Alaska and in contributing to waterfowl conservation.

Recognizing that a special effort was required to convince rural waterfowl hunters to stop using lead shot that later causes significant poisoning of waterfowl and to start using nontoxic shot, the Service appointed a team of employees to establish partnerships to organize, plan, and provide hunters with outreach and training aimed at increasing the use of nontoxic shot and, thus, conserving waterfowl. The team designed a well-crafted outreach and educational program in partnership with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, local chapters of conservation organizations, and village elders to combine the experience, ethics, and wisdom of rural and urban hunters to develop culturally appropriate methods for delivering information and for changing hunting methods and behaviors in Alaska's rural communities. The team recruited volunteer instructors to go in small teams to rural villages that have a strong tradition of waterfowl hunting where they would host a waterfowl hunting and shooting skills clinic just before hunters begin hunting waterfowl.

The Service team provided extensive training in outreach and youth and adult education and employed the skills of ADF&G to train and certify instructors as Alaska Hunter Safety Education instructors and National Sporting Clay Association coaches. During the clinic at the village school or cultural center, instructors, together with village elders, explained?in a relaxed, culturally appropriate presentation?why hunters should use nontoxic shot. The next day, a shotgun shooting clinic was held so that every participant ended the clinic with not only a good reason to start using nontoxic shot, but also with greater skills as a wing-shooter. Recognizing the need for basic gun safety instruction in villages, team members frequently contacted the school principals and arranged for secondary students to receive the Alaska Hunter Safety Education course during regular school hours while the instructors were there for the clinic.

While in the village the volunteer instructors (which included Service employees) graciously shared their time, passion, and expertise in waterfowl hunting. Village elders spoke with authority of the ways young people can become respected hunters able to provide for their families and communities. The rural waterfowl education village clinic program also provides a unique opportunity for urban and rural waterfowl hunters to learn from each other and to teach young hunters not only basic hunting and shooting skills, but also the wisdom and ethics of their elders that will ensure that future generations have abundant fish and wildlife resources for their use and enjoyment.

Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov
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