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Using New Process, USFWS Releases 2016-2017 Waterfowl Regulations

Using New Process, USFWS Releases 2016-2017 Waterfowl Regulations

Marking the first year of a new regulations-setting process, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released the 2016-2017 waterfowl season frameworks. Moving forward, frameworks will be proposed during the winter months — not after completion of spring breeding population surveys, as was protocol for nearly half a century.

The shift alleviates the need to rush critical decisions in time for season openers.

“It provides an ample period to analyze monitoring data such as population surveys, hunter-harvest surveys and banding data,” said Ken Richkus, USFWS deputy chief for the Division of Migratory Bird Management. “The former regulations process was always delivered in abbreviated fashion. It didn’t allow a 30-day public comment period and it put state agencies against the wall to publish waterfowl brochures.”

USFWS addressed two key questions as the process was engineered: Will basing frameworks on the prior year’s population survey render them less fitting? And will the system force USFWS to issue tighter regulations?

“We deeply explored those concerns,” Richkus said. “We did extensive harvest modeling and duck production simulations, including simulations of poor nesting seasons, and the models performed very well. [The new process] won’t have applicable risk for waterfowl species or cause us to be more conservative with our regulations. Management decisions will continue to balance the needs our hunting constituency with those of the resource to provide maximum hunting opportunities.”

2016-2017 Seasons and Bag Limits
Duck hunters in all four flyways will again enjoy liberal season dates: 60 days in the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways, 74 days in the Central Flyway and 107 days in the Pacific Flyway. The frameworks include a seven-duck limit in the Pacific Flyway, and a six-duck limit across all others. Liberal goose seasons remain largely unchanged, and a 16-day teal season is again proposed for the Atlantic, Mississippi and Central flyways.

Most species-specific bag limits mirror last season. Two pintails, two canvasbacks and two redheads are allotted nationwide. Four mallards may be shot in the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways, five in the Central and seven in the Pacific, only two of which may be hens. The limit on bluebills is three in all flyways except the Atlantic, where two are permitted.

Big changes are in store, however, for Atlantic Flyway sea duck hunters. In response to data suggesting over-harvest, Special Sea Duck Areas will no longer offer extended dates and limits. Expect a 60-day season and five-duck limit.