IL: Duck zone may depend on support

Springfield – Will 2011 finally be the year of the "fourth zone?"

Duck hunters in Illinois have been clamoring for a fourth duck hunting zone for a generation – and things are looking up.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviews the zones every five years. For the past three or four cycles, the state of Illinois has submitted a proposal asking for a fourth zone, or allowing split seasons in the three zones that currently exist. The proposal has been turned down each time.

This year, the USFWS has published the proposed change in the Federal Register. Action taken by the agency will largely be determined by public comment.

"I think we started this at least 15, and maybe 20 years ago," said Ray Marshalla, DNR's waterfowl biologist. "We are absolutely shocked, amazed and happy to see them do it. The two things that could stop it from happening are too many negative, or not enough positive comments.

"I don't expect negative comments except from people who are opposed to hunting."

Public comments will be accepted until May 15. The proposal involving the expansion of zones is found on Page 19,883 of the Federal Register.

Comments can be submitted by going to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R9-MB-2011-2014.

Written comments can be submitted to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R9-MB-2011-2014, Division of Policy and Directives Management, USFWS, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM, Arlington, VA 22203. Faxed or emailed comments aren't accepted.

"I would love to see a bunch of letters coming from Illinois to show we want the fourth zone," Marshalla said. "If they [letter writers] are in an organization, let them know how many members they have. The organizational letters will probably carry more weight, too.

"All they need to say is we support the service's proposal to expand the zoning criteria to allow states to use four duck zones."

Illinois currently has three zones which have created annual conflict regarding season dates in southern Illinois. The south zone stretches from about Vandalia to Cairo. Hunters in the north part of the zone want an earlier start because migrating ducks arrive earlier. Hunters in the deep south want a later hunting date.

Marshalla said the state has done, and is doing, extensive surveys regarding the creation of a new zone. If implemented, the new zone will be designated the south central zone.

"In the waterfowl hunter survey we gave some options based on the data we collected over several years," he said. "When we get the results of the survey, we will then come up with a proposal. Just for the dividing line between the south central and central, I think we have three options there. We do intend to hold some public meetings in the areas we get the most concerns. I would guess that would be in May or June. We may have an answer from the Fish and Wildlife Service as early as late May."

If the USFWS acts on the proposal, the new zones could be in effect for the 2011-12 hunting season. "They do indicate if they don't get it done in time for 2011, it could be done in 2012, which is unprecedented," Marshalla said.

For more information, hunters can write Ron W. Kokel, Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, MS MBSP-4107-ARLSQ, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240; or call (703) 358-1714.

Categories: News Archive, Waterfowl

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