GLIFWC speaks out on denied duck hunt plan

By Joe Albert Staff Writer

Odanah, Wis. – Twelve days after its proposal to increase duck
limits and allow baiting on ceded territory was denied, the Great
Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission says it was rejected with
‘polemics and ‘sky-will-fall’ hyperbole.’

For most species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to
allow about half of the bag limits GLIFWC originally proposed, and
didn’t go along with a desire to bait waterfowl.

In a letter to Paul Schmidt, USFWS assistant director for
migratory birds and state programs, GLIFWC Executive Administrator
James Zorn said the service ‘has not provided sufficient
biological, public health, or public safety rationale and
supporting data as bases for rejecting the tribes’ proposal.

‘Instead, it has inappropriately assumed a paternalistic
attitude about what is in the tribes’ best interest and has
examined the tribes’ proposal through the lens of sport hunting and
its fair chase precepts rather than pursuant to and consistent with
the nature and extent of the tribes’ court-affirmed treaty hunting
rights.’

In the 1837 and 1842 treaty areas, GLIFWC proposed daily limits
of 40 ducks, 20 geese, and 10 mergansers. The USFWS’s proposal –
placed in the Federal Register on Aug. 17, and to be finalized by
Sept. 1 – would allow limits of 20 ducks, 10 geese, and 10
mergansers.

The federal proposal for bird limits includes the same
regulations tribal members hunted under last year, except the
merganser limit would be doubled from five to 10.

The USFWS said tribal hunters don’t harvest enough ducks to
warrant the doubling of limits, and that allowing baiting isn’t the
best way to increase participation. GLIFWC said that under its
original proposal – baiting, and 40-duck and 20-goose limits –
members likely would kill fewer than 5,000 ducks and 1,000
geese.

But it’s the baiting provision of the tribes’ proposal that has
been the subject of most discussion. Both the Minnesota DNR and the
USFWS say that allowing baiting on off-reservation lands would
result in conflict between tribal and non-tribal members.

‘The tribes also reject the Service’s statement that, if
approved, their proposal will cause confusion and resentment among
the general public and other hunters,’ the GLIFWC response said.
‘Overall public acceptance of treaty rights has been secured and
there is no reason to think that this proposal will undo either
that acceptance or the goodwill that goes with it.

‘However, even if ‘resentment’ were to occur among some portion
of the public, it would not be a reason to curtail or restrict a
legitimate treaty harvest,’ the letter continued.

And contrary to what DNR and USFWS have said, GLIFWC doesn’t
believe that allowing baiting on ceded territories will result in
state hunters unknowingly hunting over bait, which was banned in
1935.

‘As the Service well knows, hunting over and with bait is a
common practice for many species, as well as a court-approved
practice within the scope of the tribes’ ceded territory treaty
rights Š’ the response said.

‘The truth of the matter is that, if properly regulated, baiting
can be practiced without harming the particular natural resources
targeted and without vitiating state-licensed harvest
opportunities.’

The Minnesota DNR concurred with the USFWS on the baiting
provision, and sent a letter in support of the federal proposal.
The letter, written by Dave Schad, director of the Division of Fish
and Wildlife, didn’t mention the limits, but rather focused on the
baiting aspect.

‘We agree with the decision to not support the GLIFWC’s proposal
to remove baiting restrictions and concur with your analysis that
allowance of baiting for tribal hunting on ceded lands would have
further complicated the regulations, confused the public, and made
those lands and other adjacent areas off-limits to waterfowl
hunting by non-tribal members,’ the letter said.

Despite the differences in the two proposals, Zorn said in his
letter that the relationship between the tribes and the USFWS is a
model of how the two should engage one another.

‘The tribes offered their proposal in this context,’ the letter
said.

‘Unfortunately, they are now compelled to reply to a proposed
Service request that challenges their judgment and questions their
ability to consider their own interests, that predicts social
disharmony and unrest, and that panders to the worst traits of
those who seek to deny the tribes’ rights not based upon law or
reason but upon misconception and emotion.’

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