Contact: Kent Keene, Assistant Manager, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy
Why It Matters: Public participation in the decision-making process surrounding fish and wildlife management is indicative of an engaged public, and members of the outdoor sporting community are always encouraged to be involved at every available opportunity. However, it is important to remember that the ultimate decision regarding the management of our nation’s public trust fish and wildlife resources is best suited for those equipped to make such decisions. In most cases, this responsibility is best suited for state fish and wildlife agency officials who possess the training and knowledge needed to make informed, science-based management decisions.
During their upcoming meeting on August 25, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is expected to formally deny an overly prescriptive petition for rulemaking which called for a series of regulations regarding Texas’ mountain lion population. Instead, TPWD is expected to recommend the formation of a stakeholder advisory group to examine mountain lion policy and provide feedback to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission for consideration. A request for such a stakeholder advisory group was included in the petition, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation looks forward to learning more about this stakeholder group and the ways that we can continue to contribute to the science-based management of our nation’s public trust resources, while also protecting and advancing our ability to ethically hunt and trap in the Lone Star State.
Among other things, the petition called for a regional bag limit of five mountain lions in South Texas and a prohibition on what the coalition behind the petition referred to as “canned hunting” of mountain lions. While sportsmen and women should stand behind the fair chase ethic that guides our activities and highlights the role of sportsmen and women as conservationists, this type of petition also raises serious concerns regarding the future of our ability to hunt and trap given similar, albeit more threatening, petitions appearing in other parts of the country.
While citizen engagement is a critical part of the process, many of these efforts tend to fly in the face of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. In the Model, states – typically through their fish and wildlife management agency – manage fish and wildlife as a public trust resource for the benefit of all citizens. Relying on professionally trained and experienced staff, these agencies, rather than the general public, are best equipped to make science-based management decisions. Fortunately, the current situation in Texas, thanks to the great work at TPWD, is a shining example of this Model, and the wildlife management systems built upon it, working as it should.
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?