Now let’s get to the proposed changes. The list of proposals is not as long as in previous years, but there are some significant changes to the hunting regulations. Let’s start with those first. The first proposal (H1) will allow the sale of raw (untanned) deer hides from an animal lawfully taken by hunting, depredation, or as road kill. Deer processors would require a Trophy Sale permit. This sounds like a logical proposal. Instead of wasting deer hides (throwing them away), processors now have additional income for their efforts. Hopefully it will encourage new processors to open up. We definitely have a shortage here in the mountains with only a handful on the books.
The next significant change, H5, will open an elk hunting season from October 1 to November 1 by permit only. The bag limit is one per permit and any legal firearm or archery equipment can be used. The commission thinks there is interest in hunting elk on private land and population evaluations indicate the herd can sustain limited harvest. Without further information, my guess is that this will be primarily depredation permits for elk that are damaging property or crops. When this was proposed several years ago it received a lot of public push back. It will be interesting to see how it is received this year. In conjunction with H5, proposal H9 will remove elk from the state list of special concern species.
I did not see any significant proposals in the Fishing or Game Land regulations for our region. If you want to read the full list of regulations you can find them at the Commission’s website, www.ncwildlife.org. I suspect this will be a short meeting due to the lack of controversial proposals. If there is any controversy it will be over the elk proposal. All hunters and anglers should attend and let your voices be heard.
Another meeting scheduled in the near-term is the upcoming meeting for the NC U.S. Forest Service Pisgah/Nantahala Plan revision, November 16th at UNC-Asheville. The primary purpose of this meeting is to look at the list of potential areas for Wilderness designation. Some hunting friends have reviewed the list and marked the areas on maps. One of them described it as “scary.” Congressionally designated Wilderness areas are taken out of active management, which means there will be nothing done for wildlife. This is the last thing we need given the decreasing wildlife populations in our mountain forests. I implore all hunters to attend this meeting. Details can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/home.
Speaking of wildlife habitat, let me close with a quote from George Fenwick, President of the American Bird Conservancy. “Today, humans have so encircled and controlled nature as to prevent it from doing what it does best: manage itself for health and diversity. Due to poor forest stewardship going back more than a century, management has now become essential to create habitat for high-priority bird species that depend on early successional forest, such as the Golden-winged Warbler, and other rapidly declining species that need canopy gaps in mature forests, like the Cerulean Warbler.” Mr. Fenwick is stating what decades of scientific research have shown: young forest growth is essential for birds and other wildlife to survive and thrive. That will never be accomplished by putting more of our public land in protected status that prohibits the exact management activities he calls for. Let the USFS know: We neither want nor need any more Wilderness areas.