Thursday, January 11, 2007

Kofa Hunt Postponed – What Next?

Thankfully, the US Fish and Wildlife Service ordered the Kofa mountain lion hunt postponed. The lions are safe through 2007 and some of 2008. After that, what happens to them is anyone’s guess. In fact, I can guarantee you that unless the pressure is kept on, the lion population in Kofa will be in jeopardy in 2009.

I wish I could say that the USFWS has come to its senses, but that is not the case. The real reason the hunt has been postponed is because of a lawsuit by the Humane Society and a couple of other parties that questioned the opening of wildlife refuges to hunting by the very agency that was supposed to protect it. The court halted hunts in 36 wildlife refuges named in the lawsuit. In response, in what was a CYA (Cover You’re A..) move, the agency suspended all hunts in any refuge. This happened to take the Kofa hunt out with it, at least for now.

But to think that the problem is solved is the height of self-delusion. More must be done if we want to make sure our wildlife get a fair shake and the employees of the US government we pay do what is expected of them when it comes to protecting resources.

The courts have ordered the USFWS to conduct more in-depth environmental impact studies before allowing any more hunts. Can the USFWS be trusted to do the job? Well, most certainly some USFWS employees can; but there is no way for the average Joe Blow to know whether or not one of those is assigned to the studies. Therefore, I believe that Congress needs to appoint independent committees of wildlife experts to investigate and study the matter. Many of these people need to be the best and most renown in their fields. This committee (or committees) could remain in place to advise the USFWS on their forward policies and ensure that the proper balance between wildlife preservation and hunting or other outdoor activities is maintained.

For instance and for mountain lions in particular, the “reservoir” approach advanced by Dr. John Laundre, formerly of Idaho State University, would seem to apply to mountain lion management in wildlife refuges. In this scenario, the refuge itself would be protected to nurture mountain lion populations which will naturally disperse outward. The expanding mountain lion population outside the reservoir (refuge) would provide ample hunting opportunities, and the “reservoir” would tend to replenish cats killed.

In any case, whether this scheme was adopted or not, the bottom line would be that the best interests of wildlife would have a better chance of being served than they do now.

Think about this. If you have a better idea, then let me know what it is. If you think my idea of independent oversight of this issue is a good idea, write your Congressman and Senator and let them know that it needs to be done. Certainly, we can’t wait for this issue to hit the courts again; we might not be as lucky next time at getting an objective.

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