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Safari Club Int’l Wants to Expand Hunting on Our National Wildlife Refuges. Here’s how to oppose that.

By Penny Okamoto, Executive Director of Ceasefire Oregon

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is continuing the Trump administration’s efforts to expand hunting on more than 2.3 million acres of public recreation land throughout the country by proposing to expand hunting on National Wildlife Refuges.

This proposed rule change, which has no stated benefit to the birds or animals on the refuges, could be seen as a gift to the National Rifle Association (which donated $30 million to Mr. Trump’s elections) and to the Safari Club International, (SCI). SCI is an organization favored by Donald Trump, Jr., and a client of Secretary Bernhardt’s former firm Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, and Schreck, LLP. Both the NRA and SCI promote hunting, including hunting on land owned by the public.

Secretary Bernhardt claims the expansion is needed to provide those who hunt and fish with “something significant to look forward to in the fall as we plan to open and expand hunting and fishing opportunities across more acreage nationwide than the entire state of Delaware.” 

No one, including Secretary Bernhardt, has claimed the expansion is necessary to the well being of the animals or birds and no one has proposed plans to make hikers, campers, and birders safe during hunting season.

The expanded bird hunting would include migratory birds, quail, and partridge at Hart Mountain, goose hunting at Nestucca Bay, and migratory bird hunting at Wapato Lake.

An estimated 16 million people in the U.S. are hunters, only of which 2.4 million hunt migratory birds. That number is dwarfed by the 60 million people in the U.S. who are bird watchers.

Secretary Bernhardt, the Trump administration, and the state of Oregon appear to have no plans to study how the increased hunting will impact the wildlife or the people who visit the refuges. Nor do they have any plans to protect people who will be visiting National Wildlife Refuges during hunting season.

If you visit or live near Hart Mountain, Nestucca Bay, or Wapato Lake in Gaston, your opportunity to enjoy the birds and animals in a refuge set aside for the protection of those animals will be endangered in an attempt to placate private businesses. You will need to curtail plans to hike, bird watch, or enjoy the public lands we all own to accommodate the wishes of the firearm-hunting industrial complex. 

These are protected, public lands belonging to all Americans. The attempt to reduce hiking, bird watching, and other activities to expand hunting is unnecessary and puts millions of Americans at an increased risk of being unintentionally shot.

The public has until June 8, 2020 to submit comments to the federal website (docket number FWS-HQ-NWRS-2020-0013). Comments to the federal site may be made here.

Sample comment: “I oppose the expansion of hunting in our National Wildlife Refuges. The proposed plan caters to a very small group of constituents with concerning ties to Secretary Bernhardt. I value our National Wildlife Refuges and enjoy visiting without the added risk of being unintentionally shot or seeing a decrease in the wildlife as a result of hunting.”

The comment period for the state of Oregon ends tomorrow, April 30. 

To send comments to Fish and Wildlife Service at Hart Mountain, please email and include “Hart Mountain Game Bird Hunting Comments” in the subject line of the message or send a fax to (541) 947-4414, Attention Hart Mountain Hunting Plan.

To send comments to Fish and Wildlife Service at Nestucca Bay, email and please specify “Nestucca Bay Hunt Plan Comment” in the subject line. 

To send comments to Wapato Lake, email Please specify “Wapato Lake Hunt Plan Comment” in the subject line.Oregon has many places to hunt. Expanding hunting on National Wildlife Refuges is unnecessary and puts people at risk.

Current Oregon Game Bird Regulations:

Current Hart Mountain Regulations: Nontoxic shot is not required. Only hunting for chukar partridge is allowed and only on the west slope of the refuge during authorized seasons. 

Proposed change for Hart Mountain: “We propose [allowing] hunting of California quail and waterfowl (ducks, geese, and coot) on Refuge lands that are currently open to hunting, in line with State seasons and regulations. Quail hunting will provide additional opportunities for upland game bird hunters, while the waterfowl hunt simplifies hunting on State lands adjacent to the Refuge boundary.“

The estimated cost of the program is $43,000 annually.

Current Nestucca Bay Regulations: Ducks and coots may be hunted daily on Brooten Marsh and the mouth of the Little Nestucca Rvr east of its confluence with Nestucca Bay. Goose hunting is prohibited. Only portable blinds or blinds constructed of on-site dead vegetation or driftwood may be used. All blinds and decoys must be removed at the end of the day. Entry to refuge lands is prohibited from one hour after sunset to two hours before sunrise. 

Proposed change for Nestucca Bay: “The Service is expanding opportunities for hunting geese on 141 acres of tidal marsh at Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge in accordance with the refuge’s Nestucca Bay Waterfowl Hunt Plan 2013. The Service already allows the hunting of ducks and coots on the 141 acres. Now the Service proposes to allow the hunting of geese on 108 acres of Brooten Marsh and 33 acres at the mouth of Little Nestucca River seven days per week in accordance with State and Federal regulation 50 CFR 32.26.21.”

Current Wapato Lake Regulations: No open season for game birds, except a portion of Tualatin River will open for limited youth waterfowl hunting by reservation.

Proposed change for Wapato Lake: A total of 275 acres of the northern portion of the Refuge will be open to waterfowl hunting. Hunting will be from designated blinds placed on or adjacent to the interior levee surrounding Wapato Lake. Waterfowl Hunting: Geese, ducks, and coots will be taken by waterfowl hunters in accordance with state, federal, and Refuge-specific regulations. Bag limits and hunting seasons on the Refuge will coincide with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) waterfowl hunting regulations, unless otherwise noted. Hunting will occur three days per week: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, during the state designated waterfowl season. Shooting hours would follow state regulations. Two to twelve semi-permanent blinds would be placed at designated locations. The blinds would be approximately 250 yards apart with up to 4 hunters per blind. The Service may adjust dates and locations of blinds if necessary. The estimated cost to operate a waterfowl hunt program at Wapato Lake NWR would be approximately $98,500 in one-time costs and $20,000 in annual costs, including salaries and maintenance expenses.