If you are a waterfowler who cares about maintaining fair, well-managed duck hunting seasons, load up your computer today and fire off some e-mails. Details, and addresses, follow:
A greedy little scheme of political bullying is under way among six southern states to feather their already-full hunting nests. They are close to succeeding in having their duck seasons extended nine days until Jan. 31. They are trying to circumvent the carefully crafted system of setting seasons through state and federal wildlife agencies.
The head bully-boy is U.S. Sen. Trent Lott (R., Miss.). This is the same politico who in 1998 managed a duck deal for Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee when he was Senate majority leader. He did so by attaching a rider on an unrelated budget bill.
The three states thus were allowed to hunt until Jan. 31, though the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at least was able to reduce their seasons from 60 days to 51 in anticipation of an increased duck kill by virtue of hunting later into the season.
Now Lott and some of his Congressional henchmen have demanded the Jan. 31 extension and full 60-day seasons for the three aforementioned states plus Arkansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana. This after the seasons and federal “framework'' for this fall and winter already have been set and announced in September.
To accomplish the dirty work, it has been reported that Lott and Company have threatened to block Senate confirmation of Steve Williams, President Bush's nominee to head the USF&WS, and Craig Manson, the Bush nominee for assistant secretary of the Interior.
Lott supposedly attempted the same game during the Clinton administration by threatening to hold up confirmation of Donald J. Barry as assistant Interior secretary.
The seasons for the six states currently are set to end Jan. 20. They were forged in late summer via a well-defined, well-argued management process among the USF&WS and the wildlife agencies of the 14 states in the Mississippi Flyway. In fact, the Jan. 31 extensions were rejected during the earlier framework-setting process.
Needless to say, professional waterfowl biologists - especially in flyway states to the north - are incensed by this subversion of cooperative, scientific wildlife management.
“This proposal was not even mentioned at our July Flyway meeting,'' asserted Steve Barry, waterfowl biologist for the Ohio Division of Wildlife. He termed it “an obvious attempt to circumvent and short-circuit our regulatory process.
“It's the old political hardball game. You hate to see wildlife managed this way.'' Among other things, Barry noted, hunting so late into winter may be biologically unsound and interfere with waterfowl preparations for spring migration and breeding.
The regulatory process begins with spring and summer breeding-duck and nesting surveys continentwide, using one of the world's longest-established data bases, going back to 1955. The annual effort involves scores of field staff and pilots.
The data collected then is studied and debated by the four continental fly councils, which include state and federal wildlife authorities. Equitable and biologically-sound seasons are set - seasons that assure as much hunting opportunity as possible while still properly conserving waterfowl populations.
For the record, in the last five years the Ohio duck kill annually has averaged 130,000 to 140,000. Michigan's is 250,000 to 320,000. At the same time, Arkansas has averaged nearly 1.45 million ducks killed annually and Louisiana more than 2.2 million. Ohio's take of the annual flyway harvest is just 1.8 per cent, while Arkansas' is almost 20 per cent and Louisiana's is almost 30 per cent. The six southern states combined annually take nearly 60 cent of the flyway kill.
Louisiana and Arkansas already are No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation in duck harvest and Mississippi is fourth. But Lott and his greedy boys want more. Worse, the federal “comment'' period was only 15 days and ends next Friday.
Forget the mail. There is no time, not to mention the postal delays from anthrax hysteria. Send an e-mail to the chief of the USF&WS Division of Migratory Bird Management firstname.lastname@example.org. Senator Lott can be reached at email@example.com.
Be sure to message our two Ohio senators as well, urging them to ask Lott to get off his pork barrel. Write Senator Mike DeWine at firstname.lastname@example.org and Senator Voinovich at email@example.com.
Sibley, a 39-year-old naturalist, author and artist, a year ago authored a national best-seller, The Sibley Guide to Birds, which quickly was ranked with John James Audubon's Birds of America, published in 1838, and Roger Tory Peterson's Birds of North America, published in 1934, as a benchmark among guides to the continent's birds.
The newly released followup guide on bird life and bird behavior, published with the blessing of the National Audubon Society, is another landmark volume. It is an authoritative companion work that goes beyond identification and delves into how birds live and what they do.
For such an authoritative guide, the text is easy to read and understand for laymen. The new guide includes more than 795 full-color illustrations and text by 48 bird authorities and ornithologists in its 608 pages. It easily is worth the $45 cover price for any birder's reference library. The publisher is Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
The text includes essays on bird anatomy, ethology, and behavior, detailing 80 families of birds in North America. It also is accompanied by maps, charts, and illustrations. Topics include migration, feeding, mating, nesting, feather structure, eye configuration, DNA classification, evolution, and hybridization, among others.
Steve Pollick is The Blade's outdoor writer. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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