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  • Writer's pictureDavid Stalling

No: Protecting Biodiversity and Predators is Not Anti-Hunting

by Dave Stalling

A recent article in Outdoor Life, by Andrew McKean, about proposed management changes by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) for National Wildlife Refuges, is informative but typically, and inaccurately divisive.

The proposed new rules are intended to protect biodiversity and address impacts of climate change on our National Wildlife Refuges. Among the changes: Putting an end to recreational trapping and the killing of native predators. The new federal rules are known as BIDEH, which stands for Biological Integrity, Diversity and Environmental Health of the National Wildlife Refuge System. 

The Center for Progressive Reform calls the proposal "a once-in-a-generation opportunity to strengthen the ability of refuge managers to protect and enhance ecological integrity."

The rule changes have their origins in the 1967 works of ecologists E.O. Wilson and Robert MacArthur, who published "The Theory of Island Biogeography." They recognized refuges as being "isolated island sanctuaries" that could not prevent species extinction, no matter how well they were managed. They promoted the need for connections between habitat areas.

Among other things, the proposed new rules seek to connect the management of hundreds of National Wildlife Refuges to protect, restore and enhance the ecological integrity of the whole.

Unfortunately, like most folks in the hunting industry and hunting media, Outdoor Life and McKean seem overly obsessed with simplifying and framing the issues as "consumptive vs non-consumptive," "anti-hunters vs hunters,” “us vs them.” 

McKean writes, “Like so many natural resource issues over the last couple years, the BIDEH rule seems to be creating a battleground on national wildlife refuges between two very different user groups: those who would use refuges for hunting and other consumptive activities, and those who would like to see them managed as wildlife sanctuaries and de facto wilderness areas."  

There's a third and, I suspect, much larger group: Those of us who use refuges for 'consumptive' and recreational activities, (including hunting and fishing) but think biodiversity, ecological health and the protection of all wildlife is more important than our own, selfish opportunities and desires. 

We don't think that just because we purchase things like Duck Stamps and hunting and fishing licenses, that help pay for and manage public wildlife refuges, that it gives us the right to subvert the public trust and dictate management priorities. 

Some of us are hunters who do not believe that trapping and killing predators under the false, well-refuted notion that it will provide more prey (or "game") species for us to hunt and kill is "sound science." 

McKean also writes: "The proposed regulations are a step toward minimizing the critical role hunters have played in establishing and maintaining refuges across the country." 

No, they’re not. The proposed regulations are a step towards honoring the public trust doctrine and making management of our public lands more democratic in nature so that all citizens have a say, and all wildlife is protected -- including predators. 

Many of us hunters support that. 

Dave Stalling is the founder and director of Hunters and Anglers for Wildlife Management Reform. An avid and passionate hunter and angler, he is a past president of the Montana Wildlife Federation and a founder of Hellgate Hunters and Anglers. He has worked for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Trout Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Forest Service.

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