June 30, 2016

Hunting Advisory Committee Weighs in on Ungulate Management and BLM Planning

Hunting Advisory Committee Weighs in on Ungulate Management and BLM Planning
On June 22, the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council (Council), a federal advisory committee that advises the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture on recreational hunting and wildlife resource issues, convened at National Wild Turkey Federation headquarters in Edgefield, South Carolina to discuss issues of importance to America’s sportsmen and women. 

During the June meeting, the Council, of which CSF is a member, tackled a diverse set of topics ranging from recreational shooting management on federal public lands to wildfire funding. The Council also approved two letters containing recommendations for federal agency action on ungulate management in National Parks and the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) ongoing updates to its planning process.

During the meeting, the National Park Service provided the Council with a briefing on a recently released agency report entitled, Elk Management in the National Park Service – Two Case Studies in the Use of Public Volunteers.  With hunting being unavailable for use as a management tool in many national parks due to a variety of federal statutes and regulations, the report chronicles the agency’s experiences using public volunteers to reduce locally overpopulated elk herds in Rocky Mountain and Theodore Roosevelt National Parks. The report’s findings are consistent with the suggestions provided by the hunting and professional wildlife management community for decades and include documentation that has proven wildlife management techniques have numerous positive benefits, including improved working relationships between the National Park Service and state fish and wildlife agencies, enhanced capacity to achieve population management objectives, and increased volunteer stewardship continuing beyond culling operations that all fit well within the Park Service’s budget constraints and regulatory structure. 

Subsequent to the briefing, the Council approved a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell expressing support for the report’s findings and recommended that the use of skilled volunteers be made a required consideration in units of the National Park System where overpopulations of wildlife is or could become a concern. The Council further recommended that skilled volunteers be utilized to address resource damage resulting from bison populations that are well above management objectives in Grand Canyon National Park.

In addition to the Council’s ungulate management letter, the group also approved a letter containing recommendations related to BLM’s “Planning 2.0” effort that proposes procedures to prepare, revise or amend the agency’s land use plans nationwide. While acknowledging that the proposal will likely have a net positive effect on habitat, sportsmen and other public land stakeholders once finalized, the Council recommended that BLM take steps to clarify the requirements needed to successfully coordinate with state fish and wildlife agencies in order to achieve wildlife population objectives for mule deer, elk, sage grouse and other species. The Council also encouraged BLM to revisit their proposal to eliminate existing steps during the planning process so that public stakeholders will continue to have an opportunity to fully engage in land use planning processes.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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