DFG Supports Hunting in Mojave NP

spectr17

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DFG SUPPORTS HUNTING IN MOJAVE -- Jim Matthews column  08aug01

DFG takes strong stand in support of hunting in East Mojave Preserve.

The Department of Fish and Game, in a strongly worded letter, has taken the National Park Service to task over its proposed hunting restrictions in the East Mojave National Preserve. The preserve staff in its final environmental impact statement (FEIS) and general management plan (GMP) for the East Mojave had recommended for elimination of all small game hunting, all varmint hunting, closing the preserve to hunting half the year, and massive firearm closures around campgrounds, visitor centers, and other areas where they anticipate extensive visitor use. Curt Taucher, the DFG’s Region Six regional manager, in a four-page letter to Mary Martin, superintendent of the preserve, pointed out four major flaws in the final document.

The implication was clear. The DFG is willing to fight for the sportsmen on these issues, and that the park service was treating on very unstable legal ground and they’d better back down. “We strongly disagree with the proposed restrictions of hunting throughout the MNP (Mojave National Preserve),” said Taucher’s letter. It goes on to say, “Without substantive data or information to support the proposed restrictions, we believe they are unwarranted, unnecessary, and in direct conflict with (the legislation that created the preserve).” Taucher’s letter hit on four main points:

-- First, that the management of wildlife within the state was the responsibility of the DFG and Fish and Game Commission, and that adoption of the final adoption of the plan with any hunting restrictions should only come after extensive consultation with the DFG and adoption by the Fish and Game Commission, allowing for public comment on the proposals through the state regulatory process. This did not happen.

-- Second, the park staff adopted the hunting restrictions on a clear misinterpretation of what was allowed under the Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan (DTRP), which specifically recommended that legal hunting be allow to continue even when other activities in the desert areas were restricted to protect tortoises. Because the DTRP didn’t specifically mention small game hunting and hunting of non-game species (varmints), the park service staff saw this as their opportunity to restrict these activities.

-- Third, the hunting restrictions violated not only state policy of the Fish and Game Commission to “ensure and enhance hunting and fishing opportunities” throughout the state, but also the law that created the preserve that “is explicitly clear to allow hunting opportunities to continue.”

-- And fourth, the letter pointed out the park service staff proposals for large, so-called safety buffers around campgrounds and visitor centers (no discharge of a rifle within one mile of these areas) are completely unwarranted and unprecedented anywhere in the state. Taucher’s letter states “In reviewing the Department’s hunter safety records, it is clearly demonstrated... the general public is not at risk.... The Department does not support proposed restrictions on such a responsible user group within the MNP.” It also pointed out what a nightmare these restrictions would be to enforce.

The DFG is to be commended for going to bat for sportsmen on this issue. It is clear from the letter’s tone the DFG would be willing to go to court over the proposed hunting bans in the preserve, and it has a strong legal leg to win such a case should the National Park Service not make the DFG’s proposed changes in the plan. The park service staff needs to remember the only reason there is a Mojave National Preserve at all is because sportsmen supported the proposal when hunting was allowed as part of the legislation. As conservationists, sportsmen saw the need for greater resource protection and enhancement than was happening under Bureau of Land Management control but didn’t want to lose the vast area to hunting. When the “park” proposal was changed to a “preserve” proposal that allowed hunting, the Desert Protection Act passed. It passed only because of support by sportsmen who lobbied the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to support the bill.

Unfortunately, this hunting ban proposal has fostered a huge distrust of the park service personnel within the general public and the state agencies’ staff that are now required to work with the park staff to protect and enhance wildlife within the preserve. The wholesale removal of wildlife water sources on retired cattle leases, without thorough evaluation of their impacts on desert wildlife, further has damaged the park staff’s credibility and dedication to the resources in the desert. It simply appears as though they are all anti-hunting, and they have a major hurdle to clear to prove to the preserve’s largest group of users -- hunters -- that is not the case. The first step would be in changing the hunting restrictions and absurd firearms closures areas in the final management plan. A second would be to consult with the DFG and volunteer groups on wildlife water sources each time the park staff wants to make a change -- from guzzlers to cattle watering tanks.
 

QALHNTR

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Wow, something good for us hunters besides opening day.  What a mess the politicians make.  Thanks for the update spectr17.
 

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