The proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to expand hunting and fishing on wildlife refuges and hatcheries includes our beloved Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

This shortsighted political stunt was launched by former Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke with the National Rifle Association, hand-picked sportsmen (aka hunters and trappers), shooters and like-minded politicians to counter reports that hunter numbers had dropped by 2.2 million between 2011 and 2016. It included Zinke’s Secretarial Order 3356 to expand hunting and fishing on Department of Interior lands.

The bosque was created in 1939 to provide “inviolate sanctuary for migrating waterfowl.” It is the goose that lays the golden eggs, a conservation rock star that attracts some 200,000 nature lovers and ecotourists annually to enjoy the inspirations of hundreds of thousands of migratory birds and other wildlife. The healthy waterfowl populations also create countless hunting opportunities far beyond refuge boundaries.

This proposal is a request for comments, not votes. Alternative B “to increase hunting” and “align refuge rules and regulations with New Mexico Game and Fish” is expected to be in place for this fall’s hunting season. Our first chance to vote will be in November.

Alternative B will allow hunting on a total of 48,144 acres and open hunting, now prohibited, for ducks, dark geese and several other species on 28,022 acres, including 3,492 acres now closed to hunting in the Rio Grande corridor. These increases could have huge impacts on ducks and other wildlife and magnify conflicts between hunters and other visitors.

In addition, Game and Fish’s sportsmen-friendly regulations include no hunting ethics; allow AR-15s for hunting; no restrictions on high-capacity magazines, silencers or mile-or-more computerized scopes; year-round trapping and hunting with no limits for nongame wildlife like bunnies; and more.

Speculation that hunter interest has been low and the proposed changes probably won’t make much difference — 375 predicted hunt visits compared to 226 now — was offered to justify the changes. The supporters of increased refuge hunting are ignoring the far-reaching collateral damage.

Laddie Mills is a lifelong outdoorsman, hunter, fisherman and native New Mexican. For details about the proposal, see regulations.gov/document?D=FWS-HQ-NWRS-2020-0013-1622.

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(6) comments

Khal Spencer

Um, I tried that link at the end of the story and got this: We're sorry, but we could not load document FWS-HQ-NWRS-2020-0013-1622.

Khal Spencer

Two quick comments.

One, if Laddie really knows something about hunting, he knows one doesn't use an AR on waterfowl such as what would be hunted in the Bosque corridor. One uses a shotgun. Usually one with a long barrel, full choke, and heavy shot. I suspect Laddie threw in the AR comment for maximal political shock effect among those who know nothing about hunting. As far as using an AR for hunting stuff elsewhere on the ground, one could make sure people are hunting ethically by putting a maximum round limit by regulation (say five, such as the NYS regulation when I used to hunt deer) in an AR or any other rifle. In that case, an AR is just a rifle.

Two, Laddie seems to forget that "the goose that lays the golden eggs" was a cautionary Aesop's fable about acting on a false premise: the fact that there are no geese that lay golden eggs. One does not want to squander resources or kill the goose with short term or erroneous thinking. Hunting fees pay for a lot of wildlife preservation and habitat preservation. Ethical hunters don't want to wipe out the sport through bad wildlife management.

Can we have a less overtly political discussion?

Khal Spencer

p.s. I don't have a dog in this fight. I stopped hunting 35 years ago and became a vegetarian. But I suspect a much better essay could have been written opposing the expanded hunting rights if it had focused on things like incompatible uses, number of people using the resource, and potential hazards. The AR comment in an essay that focused on Federally regulated migratory waterfowl was a rather disingenuous thing to say by someone who claims to be an avid hunter and outdoorsman. As I said, a fair amount of money that goes to game and habitat preservation comes from hunting licenses and fees and organizations like Ducks Unlimited. You know, those slow, steady golden eggs.

Don't kill the goose, Laddie. You know how the fable ended.

Laddie Mills

The FWS site, ( https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FWS-HQ-NWRS-2020-0013-1622 ) , provides the compatibility determination you are seeking! Unfortunately, the FWS is speculating that hunting interest is so low that they are predicting only 60 waterfowl hunt visits over the 3 month season. To the contrary, the DOI and FWS are calling this the “largest hunting expansion in FWS history” and a fall Trump victory celebration over COVID-19. There are no limits on hunter numbers or emergency provisions in case they are right. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to limit hunters to the numbers they are basing their decisions on?

To make matters worse, this proposal includes following G&F rules, which include hunter bias and no public wildlife trust rights or non-game conservation, and allowing unlimited year-round DIY trapping and wanton killing of non-game critters with AR-15’s, and more. Until G&F decides to honor the rights of the public trust and non-game conservation, they must not be making rules for a NWR.

Contrary to the endless G&F and hunter hype, wildlife are a public trust, on public lands, and primarily supported by public taxes, not license monies or duck stamps!

Jim Klukkert

Thanks Laddie, for your many efforts to keep public lands PUBLIC and wild lands WILD.

Folks, the US Fish & Wildlife proposals is a serious threats to one of our Crown Jewels. PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO POST A COMMENT TO PROTECT the Bosque del Apache!

And when you have time, get down to view that beauty, for the first time or again for the umpteenth visit. The Bosque never fails to impress. Let's keep it in good order.

Lucy Greer

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