Hunting External Affairs

Serving Hunters

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was created in large part because of the efforts of hunters and their concern for our wildlife resources. Since the late 19th Century, hunters and anglers have been the driving force behind much of the conservation that has taken place in this century, and we as a Service remain committed to preserving these great outdoor traditions.

Here are some examples of the Service's continued commitment to America's sportsmen and women:

Changes to migratory bird baiting regulations support hunters and habitat restoration

In 1999, the Service revised the regulations governing migratory bird baiting for the first time in more than 25 years. Why? Because the ability to hunt over restored and enhanced wetland habitat is a crucial incentive for private landowners, and these changes make it easier for landowners to maintain and restore wetlands on their property and encourage hunting without violating baiting regulations.

The Service also worked to simplify baiting regulations and make them easier to understand. The Service listened to dove hunters' concerns, and it decided against restricting dove hunting over top-sown fields.

Giving hunters more nontoxic shot options

Since lead shot was restricted for use in wetlands and waterfowl production areas, the Service has worked to expedite the approval of alternatives to steel shot.

For the 1999 waterfowl season, hunters had a choice of six shots, three of which had been given permanent or provisional approval in the last year. Other applications are being reviewed for the next season, because the Service knows that hunters want a choice in the shot they use and that more competition will bring prices down and improve performance.

Supporting tomorrow's hunters

The Service has worked to establish and promote "Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day," which provides young people an extra hunting day before or after the regular waterfowl season. More than forty states held the youth day last year and it was widely considered to be a success.

The day is held outside of any regular duck season on either a weekend or holiday, when young Americans would have the maximum opportunity to participate. The youngsters are accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old who is not allowed to hunt.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has supported a variety of non-government projects to increase the public's interest in and appreciation for fishing, hunting, and other types of outdoor recreation. For example, the Becoming An Outdoorswoman (BOW) program was developed to identify and overcome barriers to women's participation in outdoor activities, and the Step Outside program provides a framework for outdoor enthusiasts to reach out to and invite new individuals to experience target shooting, archery, hunting, or fishing.

Working with states and hunters to set hunting seasons

The Service monitors waterfowl populations and works with Flyway Councils every year to establish hunting frameworks. The perspectives of the states and of hunters are incorporated into the frameworks-setting process.

Good weather and continued habitat conservation efforts produced the largest fall flight on record in 1999. Liberal waterfowl frameworks were approved for all flyways that year.

Working with hunters to protect arctic breeding grounds

The Service fought hard to establish a consensus about the need to reduce exploding populations of mid-continent light geese, and implemented regulations last winter that involved hunters as the best short-term solution to the habitat destruction these birds are causing.

Thanks to the resulting conservation order and other provisions, hunters in 14 states took an additional 340,000 birds in the Spring of 1999, raising the light goose harvest by 46 percent.

When the Humane Society sued over the rules, the Service prevailed in its argument that it acted correctly to protect migratory bird resources. And when a judge found that a full EIS likely would be required, the Service withdrew the rules and began work immediately on a comprehensive management plan that should be in place for next season.

The Service also helped to convince Congress that action was needed. Legislation passed Congress reinstating the conservation measures until the EIS is complete.

Expanding hunting on National Wildlife Refuges

Wildlife always comes first on national wildlife refuges, and hunting is currently permitted on nearly 300 refuges.

In the "duck factory" of the upper Midwest, the refuge system accounts for only 2% of the landscape, yet 23% of the region's waterfowl breed there.

By law, hunting and fishing are "priority public uses" that are encouraged on refuges.

There were about 2 million hunting visits and about 6 million fishing visits to refuges last year.

The number of hunting visits is growing steadily, and waterfowl hunting is up tremendously over the past five years thanks to the rebound in most duck populations.

There are a number of recent developments that should continue to give hunting and fishing a boost in coming years.

  • In 1997, President Clinton signed the system's first piece of organic legislation, the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, which designated hunting and fishing as "priority public uses" on refuge lands.
  • Subsequent budget increases for fiscal years 1998 and 1999 have enabled the system to begin reducing a substantial backlog of unmet maintenance needs, allowing refuges to offer recreational programs more often and still meet their obligation to put wildlife first.
  • Fulfilling the Promise (requires Acrobat reader), the system's long term roadmap finalized in March, 1999, recommends a number of steps to improve visitor services by increasing public use staff, involving the public more thoroughly in refuge decision making, and issuing clear guidance to refuge managers for determining appropriate and compatible public uses of the System.
  • The recently proposed "Compatibility Policy," encourages managers to seek out the resources they need to offer hunting and fishing programs if they are otherwise compatible with the conservation mission of the refuge. For example, a manager could approach a local hunting or fishing organization for assistance with the maintenance and upkeep of hunting blinds or boat ramps if the refuge's own budget was insufficient.

Working with hunters and other partners to create and restore habitat

The Service administers grants under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and works with other Federal and State agencies, conservation groups and private landowners to implement habitat restoration goals set by the North American Waterfowl Management Plan in the efforts to restore waterfowl populations to the levels of the 1970's.

Under grants supported by the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, 629 projects involving over 840 partners in Canada, Mexico, and the United States have been approved from Fiscal Year 1991 through March 1999.

The Act has supported projects with a total of $270 million, and partners have contributed a total of $623 million to these efforts. Approximately 8.4 million acres of wetlands and associated uplands have been acquired, restored, or enhanced in the United States and Canada, while nearly 25.8 million acres have been affected in large biosphere reserves through conservation education and management plan projects in Mexico.

Under NAWCA's small grants program, an additional 55 projects have been funded with $1.7 million. Eighty-one partners have contributed a total of $10.3 million to the projects, affecting 14,184 acres.

Often co-sponsored by Ducks Unlimited and other national and local hunting groups, projects provide wetland habitat critical to hunting success and the survival of waterfowl species.

There are currently 10 habitat joint ventures organized through the North American Waterfowl Management Plan in the United States and 3 in Canada. Partners from Canada and the United States also support two species joint ventures. During the next 5 years, several additional joint ventures are expected to be organized.

Restoration activities can be seen along North America's coastal salt marshes and emergent wetlands and in the mid-continental prairie pothole region and in the Mississippi River Delta's bottomland-hardwood forests.

Habitat enhancement activities include rest/rotational grazing practices, seasonal flooding of active crop lands, and construction of nesting islands and structures for waterfowl and song-birds. The species joint ventures address monitoring and research needs of black ducks and Arctic nesting geese.

Federal Aid program -- support for fish & wildlife programs

The Service is a major sponsor of National Shooting Range Symposiums. Brings together range operators (be they private, non-profit, Federal, State or local government) to work on issues that affect shooting ranges.

When the southwest State hunter and aquatic education specialists wanted help with understanding the barriers people of different races face when choosing to hunt or fish, the Service sponsored a workshop and brought in national and local speakers.

When the International Hunter Education Association reported that volunteer instructors had the most difficulty in teaching the Wildlife Restoration story to hunter education students, the Service worked with IHEA to develop an instructors guide with teaching materials.

The Service apportioned $165,353,469 to the states in FY 99 under the Wildlife Restoration Program.

States use these funds to restore and manage wild bird and mammal populations and to provide hunter education to the public.

The Wildlife Restoration Program is funded by an 11-percent excise tax on sporting firearms and ammunition as well as a 12.4- percent tax on archery equipment and a 10-percent tax on handguns.

Wildlife restoration funds are made available based on land area and the number of hunting license holders in each state.

Federal Aid program -- hunter education component

Each year, over 3/4 of a million hunter education students learn to be safe, responsible, and conservation-minded hunters. States use a portion of their Wildlife Restoration funds to train volunteer instructors and conduct hunter education classes; forty-eight states require a hunter education course to purchase a hunting license. States can also use Wildlife Restoration funds to build and maintain shooting ranges, so hunters and shooters can develop and practice their skills.

One half of the excise tax on handguns and archery equipment collected for Wildlife Restoration activities is made available for State hunter education and shooting range programs. Distribution of hunter education funds is based on the relative population of each state.

Using Federal Aid administrative funding in cooperation with the States, the Service also produced a series of award-winning hunter safety public service announcements encouraging parents and older hunters to teach children the basics of hunting safety and to be considerate of landowners and obey other ethical guidelines.

National Survey of Hunting, Fishing, and Wildlife Associated Recreation

The Survey has been conducted about every five years since 1955. The surveys provide invaluable data about demographic trends in hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation, while also informing the public about the economic benefits provided by these activities.

The Survey is one of the Nation's most important wildlife-related recreational data bases. It is the only source of comprehensive information on participation and expenditures that is comparable on a state-by-state basis, and is widely used by the outdoor recreation industry