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August 21, 2000


Tom MacKenzie, 404/ 679-7292

Sandra Cleva 703/358-1949

Chris Tollefson 202/208-5634

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has clarified Federal waterfowl and dove baiting regulations, making minor changes in enforcement policy and offering guidance that will make it easier for hunters to understand the circumstances under which they can hunt legally over agricultural lands this fall

The Service, which revised the baiting rules last year to promote the restoration and creation of habitat for migratory birds, has re-examined three areas of concern to ensure uniform interpretation of the regulations.

"Some minor confusion occurred during the first year of implementation, but we hope that the guidance provided to our officers, their state counterparts, and hunters this summer will effectively address these concerns," said Kevin Adams, Chief, Office of Law Enforcement. "We also plan to revise the relevant sections of the regulations to avoid any future uncertainty about when hunting is or is not legal."

For example, Federal regulations allow the hunting of all migratory game birds over seeds or grains scattered as the result of a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, or post-harvest manipulation. The rules, however, define a normal planting as one "undertaken for the purpose of producing and gathering a crop" conducted in accordance with official recommendations
of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) state extension specialists. That definition unintentionally differentiates between fields planted with the intent to harvest a crop and fields planted for pasture improvements, livestock grazing, haying, and similar purposes, seemingly making it unlawful to hunt over seeds or grains scattered by these legitimate agricultural plantings.

"We've told our officers that compliance with official USDA
recommendations should be the overriding criterion for evaluating whether an agricultural planting is normal, not the intent of the planting," Adams explained. Grains or seeds present from plantings for pasture improvements, grazing, haying, or related activities completed in accordance with USDA recommendations do not constitute bait, and hunters may hunt waterfowl and
other migratory game birds in areas where such plantings have occurred.

The Service has also clarified the agency's position with respect to hunting migratory game birds near or over wildlife food plots. The USDA recognizes the planting of wildlife food plots as a normal agricultural operation in some states. Doves may be hunted in such areas planted in accordance with official USDA recommendations for wildlife food plots. In states where such guidance does not exist, dove hunting can proceed if the planting follows USDA recommendations for crop production.

Federal regulations, however, are more restrictive with respect to
hunting waterfowl, coots, and cranes in agricultural settings if seeds or grains are scattered on the ground, limiting the sport to areas subject to a normal planting, harvesting, or post-harvest manipulation or normal soil stabilization practice. Unlike doves, these birds cannot be hunted over freshly planted wildlife food plots.

A third issue that prompted questions during last year's hunting season involved the legality of hunting doves over fields or pastures where feed has been placed for livestock. Hunting doves over such areas remains lawful under the new Federal baiting regulations.

"As a hunter, you need to know the rules. You should review both federal and state regulations before the season starts. Always check your hunting site for bait," Adams said. "If you hunt on farmland and find grains or seeds scattered on the ground, be cautious. Talk to the landowner or your host. Know what agricultural practices are recommended for the areas where you hunt."

The Service has updated its guidance for hunters, posting comprehensive explanations of how Federal baiting rules apply to dove and waterfowl hunting on the Internet at www.le.fws.gov. This detailed information will also be available from Service law enforcement offices in printed brochures later this month.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93- million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of 525 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird
populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and
restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to State wildlife agencies.


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Atlanta, GA 30345

Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286



Release #: N00-006

2000 News Releases

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