How Regulations Are Set - The Process
Migratory game bird management in the United States is a cooperative effort of state and federal governments. For waterfowl management, for example, the U.S. and Canada are divided into four flyways; the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific. In the U.S., the Flyway Councils, consisting of representatives from state and provincial game-management agencies, recommend regulations to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for waterfowl and for most migratory, shore and upland game birds.
The Councils are advised by flyway technical committees consisting of state and provincial biologists. These technical committees evaluate species and population status, harvest, and hunter-participation data during the development of the Council recommendations.
The Service's Migratory Bird Program, with advice from biologists in the Service's Regional Offices, evaluates the Council recommendations, considering species status and biology, cumulative effects of regulations, and existing regulatory policy, and makes recommendations to the Service's Regulations Committee, which consists of members of the Service Directorate.
The Service Regulations Committee considers both the Council and Migratory Bird Program recommendations, then forwards its recommendations for annual regulations to the Service Director.
Once regulatory proposals are approved, they are published in the Federal Register for public comment. After the comment period, final regulations are developed, which are then signed by the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
New Process for the 2016-17 Hunting Regulations Cycle
Beginning with the 2016-17 hunting seasons, a new schedule will be used for setting annual migratory bird hunting regulations. The current early and late season regulatory actions will be combined into a single process that will establish migratory bird hunting seasons much earlier than the current system does.
Under the new process, proposed hunting season frameworks for a given year will be developed in the fall of the prior year. Those frameworks will be finalized a few months later, thereby enabling the state agencies to select and publish their season dates in early summer.
This new process will be implemented for the 2016-17 regulatory cycle. There will be a one-time overlap in the regulatory processes for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. The 2016-17 regulatory schedule began with a non-decisional SRC meeting in mid-June 2015, and will follow with a decisional SRC meeting in mid October 2015.
Proposed season frameworks, a 30-day public comment period, and final season frameworks will then follow with ultimate publication of all 2016-17 migratory game bird hunting seasons in late May to mid-June of 2016.