Don Mallicoat

Wildlife Management: hunters or environmentalist?

By Don Mallicoat –

If hunters do not get vocally involved in wildlife management issues soon, we may find that we no longer have our hunting privileges. Not if environmentalists and animal rights groups have their way. National organizations like the NRA, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), and U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA), have valiantly fought the fight for many years. The most recent case that we reported on was the attempt to ban lead in ammunition lead by the Center for Biological Diversity. Now they are at it again in a continuing battle in grey wolf management.

On Tuesday September 18th, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Minnesota-based group, Howling for Wolves, filed a lawsuit in the Minnesota Court of Appeals against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). That lawsuit attempts to block the state’s upcoming wolf hunting and trapping season. The anti’s are asking the Court to issue a preliminary injunction, seeking to stop the wolf season while the rest of the case is decided.

The lawsuit claims that the Minnesota DNR failed to follow technical rulemaking procedures in adopting the wolf hunting and trapping season. Particularly, the groups are claiming that the DNR should not have adopted the wolf season under its expedited rulemaking powers and should have given more opportunity for public comment on the rules. These claims are based solely on procedural grounds and do not challenge the science behind the state’s management of wolves through hunting and trapping. Minnesota’s wolf hunt is scheduled to open on Saturday, November 3rd. Last month, anti-hunting organizations in Wisconsin filed a lawsuit attempting to block Wisconsin’s upcoming wolf hunting season. In that case, a Wisconsin Judge granted an injunction barring a portion of Wisconsin’s wolf hunt.

So you may ask: What does a Minnesota lawsuit have to do with us in Western North Carolina? There are several issues here. First, these anti-hunting groups use lawsuits in federal courts for two purposes. One is to raise money for their cause by being reimbursed by the federal government for legal expenses involved in the suits. Most importantly, when they do win a case in federal court they then use it for precedent in subsequent cases anywhere else in the country for any other wildlife species. For example, due to rising bear populations in the mountains let’s say the NC WRC decided to allow bear hunting in designated bear sanctuaries. They could sue the NC WRC on a procedural matter and delay or stop the hunts.

But those are tactical issues. There is a more strategic issue here. Who should be determining game seasons and bag limits, professional wildlife managers or environmentalists through the courts? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been fighting this battle over Endangered Species Act delisting and hunting of wolves for over six years. All of the biological sciences show that their populations exceed the carrying capacity of the environment they inhabit. The natural balance is upset. Hunting is a valid method of wildlife management and has been for decades.

These groups just want to force their agenda on hunters with the ultimate goal of stopping all hunting. They probably know, but don’t care, that wildlife populations need to be kept in balance. That is not the issue. They just do not like hunting period. It is time we as hunters stop them.

So how do we do it? Get involved. Too many hunters sit idly by and expect their state wildlife agencies to “take care of these things”. That has to end. We have to financially support organizations that support scientific wildlife management like those mentioned in the first paragraph. We also have to get personally involved by active participation. That means attending public hearings (which are usually required when changing federal and state game laws) and making our voices louder than the environmentalists.

That also applies to land management in our local National Forests. Every time the U.S. Forest Service proposes a land management project for wildlife they are required to accept public comment, usually at a meeting. Show up and let them know you want the land managed for wildlife. I guarantee you the environmentalists will be there. If you cannot make it to a public meeting provide written comments. Get involved.

Hunters have to take wildlife and land management back from those who want to destroy our hunting heritage. If we do not get involved, there will be a day when you will not be able to take your grandson hunting. It will be against the law.

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