Bill to change federal duck season clears subcommittee

By Madilyn Jarman

A bill affecting the federal duck hunting season has cleared a House subcommittee. ©christels

A bill affecting the federal duck season cleared a House subcommittee.

The House Subcommittee on Federal Lands considered the Migratory Bird Framework and Hunting Opportunities Act (H.R. 6013) during a legislative hearing on July 17. The bill would establish Jan. 31 as the end of the federal duck hunting season, adding four days to the 2018-2019 season. Typically, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has set the last Sunday in January as the end of the season. The bill would also establish the first weekend in February as a special hunting weekend for youth, veterans and active duty military personnel.

“It’s an effort to try and give some certainty and also give some flexibility to the states to promote duck hunting,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the bill’s sponsor, “especially to those who are veterans and especially to those who are young.”

States would not be required to extend the season until the end of January but could still establish their own seasons within the federal framework to fit local needs.

Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited, said in a statement that he supported the measure’s ability to extend more opportunities for hunters, but he voiced concerns over portions of the bill that would prohibit the Interior secretary from reducing bag limits and the season length from 2017-2018 levels.

Currently, bag limits for ducks and other waterfowl are established as part of an annual process under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. North America is divided into four flyways, which are governed by flyway councils made up of officials from state and provincial wildlife management agencies. The councils are advised by technical committees that study factors like population status, nesting success, habitat conditions, harvest rates and hunter participation.

Based on this research, the flyway councils make recommendations to the Migratory Bird Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Migratory Bird Program considers the recommendations in light of current regulatory policies and species biology before making recommendations to the USFWS Regulations Committee.

Hunters must then purchase a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp to hunt waterfowl. Money from Duck Stamp sales goes into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, which funds USFWS efforts to acquire migratory bird habitat.

Hall suggested that blocking the Interior secretary from adjusting bag limits and season lengths based on changing conditions could interfere with state and federal collaboration on waterfowl hunting as well as adaptive harvest management.

The adaptive harvest management process attempts to reduce uncertainty when regulating waterfowl harvests by using scientific data and population models to predict how waterfowl populations will react to weather conditions and hunting pressure. Scientifically-based management it one of the tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

Read The Wildlife Society’s standing position on The Use of Science in Policy and Management Decisions.

Madilyn Jarman is a Policy Communication Intern at The Wildlife Society. Read more of Madilyn's articles.

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