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Or will something like this affect us someday ???

Wildlife Refuges Not a Refuge if Hunting is allowed

That's what an animal rights organization maintains. And to drive home its point, the Fund for Animals has filed suit against the federal government to bar hunters from areas in 39 refuges that have been opened to them in the last five years.But, counters the Interior Department and hunters' groups, that stance misconstrues the basis for the refuge system since it was started by President Teddy Roosevelt 100 years ago this month."It's completely historically inaccurate and intellectually dishonest,
" Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Mitch Snow said of the Fund for Animals' lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Washington."The refuges were never created to be sanctuaries where no hunting would be allowed," Snow said. "Ever since the inception of the refuge system, hunting has been allowed, largely because hunting is good for conservation - hunters contribute enormously to conservation. Without hunting, we couldn't do what we do."Federal law allows for "secondary uses" in wildlife refuges, as long as there is a review of the potential effect of that use on wildlife designated for protection.
The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 allows four possible secondary uses - hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and environmental education.The Fund for Animals' lawsuit specifically challenges the Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to "initiate or expand sport hunting" at 39 refuges, including 31 where there has never been hunting before and 21 that are within the Mississippi flyway, which the group says is "a critical migration corridor for numerous species of birds protected under the Endangered Species Act.
"Hunters are not allowed to shoot the animals designated for protection in the refuges, but the Fund for Animals says that no matter what species is the hunters' prey, all the others that live in the refuge suffer negative effects.The group is especially concerned because the number of new areas in refuges opened to hunting since 1997 has increased every year, and according to the lawsuit, the decisions to open the most recent 39 areas were made "without analyzing or disclosing the potential direct, indirect and cumulative environment impacts."Three refuge areas were opened to hunting in 1998, five in 1999, eight in 2000, 11 in 2001 and 15 in 2002. In all, hunting is allowed in more than half of the 540 national wildlife refuges.
"We believe it is obscene that refuges should be turned into killing fields," said Michael Markarian, president of the Fund for Animals. "There's plenty of public land in this country where hunters can hunt. Unfortunately there's a lot of political pressure to allow hunting on refuges." Paying Their Way?If it is true that hunters have been able to exert influence on the federal government to open refuges to hunting,
Fish and Wildlife officials say there is good reason.Fees from the federal duck stamp, which hunters must purchase to shoot waterfowl, raised $622 million from 1934, when the program was instituted, through 2001, the last year figures were available, Fish and Wildlife spokesman Nicholas Throckmorton said. That money has been used to purchase more than 5 million acres for the wildlife refuge system.The duck-stamp program was initiated by hunters themselves, who recognized the need to protect dwindling wildlife populations, he said."We're willing to foot the bill at huge proportions," said Rob Sexton, vice president of the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, an organization that lobbies for hunters and fishermen. "If you go after hunters, you're killing the goose that lays the golden egg.
"Through license fees and taxes, hunters and fishermen provided $2.6 billion in 2002 to help fund conservation efforts nationwide, Sexton said."Can you imagine if they had to find funding for wildlife from tax dollars?"
Sexton said. "There's not enough money to fund things people need in everyday life like education, police and fire departments. The Fund for Animals doesn't have an answer for that. The very animals they seek to help would be in big trouble if it weren't for the money that comes from hunting.
"However much hunters may contribute financially, though, Markarian maintains any good can be undone by the harm hunters can cause to the refuges in terms of physically disturbing habitats or disrupting breeding patterns or simply frightening wildlife, whether with off-road vehicles, the dogs used in hunting or just the crack of gunfire.

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