Migratory Game Bird Hunting - Policies and Responsibilities

723 FW 1
FWM Number
Originating Office
Division of Migratory Bird Management

1.1 Purpose. The purpose of this Part is to present the policies of the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) that pertain to the hunting of migratory birds.

1.2 Scope. The policies contained herein are limited to those affecting hunting seasons for migratory game birds and the processes of developing regulations which govern that hunting. These seasons would remain closed in the absence of such regulations.

1.3 Authority. The authority to determine when, to what extent, and by what means to allow migratory bird hunting is defined by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, as amended.

1.4 Responsibility. The Office of Migratory Bird Management, which reports to the Assistant Director - Refuges and Wildlife, is the Service's technical authority on migratory bird management. It serves as a focal point for policy development and program coordination; gathers, assesses, and disseminates information on migratory birds; and coordinates the promulgation of migratory bird hunting regulations.

1.5 Definitions. For the purposes of Part 723, definitions are provided for the following terms.

A. Migratory Game Bird. Those birds belonging to the following taxonomic families: Anatidae, Columbidae, Gruidae, Rallidae, and Scolopacidae. Nearly 100 species are included in these 5 families, but only 58 are hunted.

B. Basic Regulations. Regulations governing the hunting of migratory birds which do not change periodically based on status of populations or environmental conditions. Basic regulations are contained in portions of Title 50 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 20.

C. Annual Regulations. Regulations governing the hunting of migratory birds which are promulgated annually to establish open seasons and are changed periodically to reflect status of populations or environmental conditions. Annual regulations are established under Title 50 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 20, Subpart K.

D. Frameworks. The outer limits for opening and closing dates, maximum season length, maximum bag and possession limits, open areas, shooting hours, and other annual regulatory mechanisms from which States and Territories make their season selections. States and Territories may be more restrictive but not more liberal than the frameworks allow.

E. Early-Season Regulations. Annual regulations for migratory shore and upland game bird seasons, as well as those waterfowl seasons which generally begin prior to October 1.

F. Late-Season Regulations. Annual regulations for waterfowl seasons which generally begin on or after October 1. This definition includes most of the general waterfowl seasons.

G. Service Regulations Committee. A committee of Service personnel that reviews current information and formulates regulatory recommendations for the Director. The composition and function of the Service Regulations Committee is detailed in 723 FW 2.

H. Administrative Flyways and Management Units. A grouping of States or portions of States for the purpose of establishing regionally similar hunting regulations on a particular group of migratory game birds. To the degree practical, the flyways and management units are designed to coincide with biological flyways or migratory pathways.

I. Flyway Council. An organization of State and Provincial wildlife agencies in each of the four administrative waterfowl flyways which allows States to participate fully in the formulation of recommendations on annual hunting regulations. Each Flyway Council is generally comprised of one member from each State and Province in that Flyway.

J. Flyway Consultants. Individuals that represent the Flyway Councils and provide technical information and advice to the Service Regulations Committee. Each Flyway Council designates no more than two migratory bird authorities to serve as consultants. The functions of the consultants are detailed in Memoranda of Understanding between the Service and each of the Flyway Councils.

K. Technical Committee. A committee in each flyway that provides the individual Flyway Councils and Flyway Consultants with technical advice on biological matters. Each Technical Committee is generally comprised of a member from each State and Provincial wildlife agency.

L. Flyway Representatives. Employees of the Office of Migratory Bird Management whose primary responsibility is to serve as a liaison between the Service and a Flyway Council (including its Technical Committees) and to provide technical information germane to the regulations development process. There is one Flyway Representative for each flyway.
1.6 Goals. The primary goal of the annual hunting regulations is to protect the breeding stock of all migratory game birds and yet provide recreational hunting opportunity to the public, whose support for habitat conservation and other management efforts benefits a wide variety of wildlife species. The guiding principle of the Office of Migratory Bird Management is to base decisions on sound biological principles, consistent with established guidelines and procedures.

1.7 Objectives of Annual Regulations. Sound harvest-management programs rely on fundamental objectives or standards to guide their development. The specific objectives of annual hunting regulations are to:

A. Provide an opportunity to harvest a portion of certain migratory game bird populations by establishing legal hunting seasons. Managed subsistence and recreational harvests of the renewable migratory bird resource are desirable and consistent with sound management practices. Migratory game bird hunting is a significant form of recreational opportunity and plays an important role in migratory bird management. Besides the economic values of migratory bird hunting, substantial but intangible social and cultural values are associated with these activities. The Service seeks to provide optimum opportunity for people to use and enjoy migratory birds.

B. Limit the harvest of migratory game birds to levels compatible with their ability to maintain their populations. Hunting seasons must be consistent with the current status of migratory game bird populations and long-term population goals. Perpetuation of migratory bird populations and their habitats is a major priority. Management decisions and actions should not promote declines in individual migratory bird populations.

C. Avoid the taking of endangered or threatened species so that their continued existence is not jeopardized, and their conservation is enhanced.

D. Limit the taking of other protected species where there is a reasonable possibility that hunting is likely to adversely affect their populations.

E. Provide equitable hunting opportunity in various parts of the country within limits imposed by abundance, migration, and distribution patterns of migratory game birds. However, migratory bird populations should be managed by identifiable subpopulations where these can be biologically justified and for which management regimes are feasible.
F. Assist, at times and in specific locations, in preventing depredations on agricultural crops by migratory game birds.

G. Maintain the cooperative nature of the regulations development process for hunting migratory birds. The Service will continue its strong leadership role in harvest management, and the participation of the Flyway Councils as full partners in this process should be actively sustained. Ample opportunity for the public to participate and comment in the management process must continue to be provided.