Mississippi Flyway biologists and managers from 14 states are meeting this week in Alabama to develop duck and goose hunting regulation proposals to submit to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the fall seasons.
Importantly, the officials in Alabama are also reviewing an environmental impact statement developed by the service to review and justify waterfowl hunting. This is the first EIS on the subject in about 18 years, and the document is widely considered to be important to the continuation of waterfowling — though no threat to the sport from anti-hunters or others is imminent.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., continues to lead the charge among members of Congress to ensure that possible adverse effects to waterfowl and other birds of the oil blowout in the Gulf aren't forgotten, either by BP or the federal government.
An excerpt from her speech on the Senate floor appears below.
It's likely, oil blowout or not, that Minnesota duck hunters this fall will again see a 60 day season, with a six bird limit. This might surprise some waterfowlers here, who in recent decades haven't seen many birds in their hands — or even in the sky.
But the pond count this spring and summer, together with the number of breeding ducks counted by state and federal surveyors, suggests that a ''liberal'' hunting season again will be approved.
The Minnesota duck opener has been set for Oct. 2.
Here is the excerpt from Sen. Klobuchar's speech:
"I have focused on addressing this disaster because I believe we owe it to the taxpayers and because this disaster has devastated the resources that belong to all Americans.
"Now as we face the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history, we can’t lose sight of a piece of it that I don’t think has gotten enough attention: the fate of our migratory bird population.
"At first it was a single pelican drenched in oil, hobbling on a beach.
"At first, no one focused on the unsettling proposition that millions of birds that live in the gulf every fall and winter will be faced with toxic shorelines. But as the oil laps up on the shores, we have to face this unacceptable but real problem now.
"For most Minnesotans, we know that summer has arrived when we hear the loon calls near our 10,000 lakes. Minnesota is home to a half million ducks and the largest population of loons in the continental United States.
"Hunting and wildlife watching is part of our heritage but it’s also an important part of our economy. Waterfowl hunting contributes almost $50 million economic activity in Minnesota every year. And Minnesota has the third highest birding participation rate of all states at 33% or about 1.5 million people.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is heading up the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program, which will come up with an estimate of restoration costs that will be sent to BP for them to pay to help clean up shorelines, estuaries, and marshes.
"Additionally, the new escrow account that has been created will help ensure that the claims process for individuals and businesses runs smoothly and efficiently and it will also help ensure that claims by governments (state, local, and tribal) that are submitted to BP will not be delayed by a slow claims process.
"But while the Unified National Incident Command is doing all it can to stop the leak, it’s important that we simultaneously do all we can to protect the habitat of birds and ducks in the Gulf that support our hunting and birding economy in Minnesota.
"In just a few weeks, millions of birds will begin to migrate south from Canada, the Great Plains, and parts of the Midwest. They will fly hundreds or even thousands of miles to the Gulf Coast, where they spend their winters.
"Unfortunately, Mr. President, this year when they get to the Gulf, they could find beaches like this one--- a beach covered in tar balls, instead of beach balls.
"That’s why a bipartisan group of Senators joined me in sending a letter to Secretary Salazar to ensure that proper attention and coordination is also made with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and conservation organizations who are working to protect the habitat of migratory birds.
"I am pleased that just this week, the National Incident Command announced the launch of a new website—RestoreTheGulf.gov—dedicated to providing the American people with clear and accessible information and resources related to the BP oil spill response and recovery.
"It is important that as we focus on stopping this terrible leak, we also prepare for the serious and imminent threats to the birds and wildlife that play a critical role in the regional gulf economies and also the more distant regional economies like Minnesota’s.
"Mr. President, in just a few weeks, we must be ready for the mass influx of ducks and birds in the gulf region.
"If we fail to prepare, countless of unsuspecting birds, like this will not return to Minnesota and our ecosystems and economies will feel the impact.
"Thank you Mr. President.''