Migratory Bird Framework and Hunting Opportunities for Veterans Act
STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
PREPARED FOR THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES
SUBCOMMITTEE ON FEDERAL LANDS HEARING ON
H.R. 6013 - MIGRATORY BIRD FRAMEWORK AND HUNTING OPPORTUNITIES FOR VETERANS ACT
July 17, 2018
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 6013, the Migratory Bird Framework and Hunting Opportunities for Veterans Act. The Department supports the intent of H.R. 6013, but would like to work with the Committee to address the concerns discussed below.
H.R. 6013 would establish January 31 as the annual Federal closing date for the duck, merganser, and coot hunting season, and open the first weekend of February to hunting by youths, veterans, and members of the Armed Forces on active duty. In addition, the legislation would prohibit the reduction in hunting season length or bag limits for ducks, mergansers, and coots from the 2017-2018 hunting season.
As a matter of policy, the Department supports providing additional hunting opportunities for youth, veterans, and members of the Armed Forces. However, we want to ensure that providing additional .hunting days for one group of hunters does not have the unintended result of reducing hunting opportunities for another group or exceeding the maximum season length allowed under U.S. ratified migratory bird treaties. The Department also supports providing States the option of choosing, but not requiring, a final hunting season date up to January 31. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is currently reviewing a January 31 framework closing date in cooperation with the Flyway Councils as part of an ongoing comprehensive process to review season lengths and bag limits.
Finally, we recommend the bill be revised to complement the collaborative and science-based management process established between the States, Flyway Councils, and the Service to sustainably manage waterfowl populations and harvest opportunities. Currently, season lengths and bag limits are established annually to ensure harvest is commensurate with population status, and to ensure sustainable populations while maximizing long-term hunter opportunities. As introduced, the bill would establish minimum season length and bag limits in statute which would undermine the science-based harvest management process and jeopardize long-term waterfowl conservation.
The Department looks forward to working with Chairman Bishop and the Committee to accomplish our shared goal of increasing hunting opportunities for the public and would be happy to provide the Committee with recommended amendments to that end.