Sportsmen Must Speak Now, Hunting at Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge At Risk

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting comments and suggestions from the public as a part of their Comprehensive Conservation Planning (CCP) Process through August 22, 2007. The deadline is next Wednesday.

Based upon recent information, the Fish and Wildlife Service is not receiving comments from hunters and fishermen regarding what sportsmen want on Bond Swamp. They are receiving comments from the tree-huggers and animal-rights activists. This process is the result of a lawsuit by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) that threatens to end hunting on numerous National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs).

As concerned sportsmen, we must speak now to keep hunting on Bond Swamp.

Four questions are being asked and the responses considered.

These four are listed below for you to use in sending your response. I have included some of my comments for your review. My comments follow the list of questions.
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The four questions are:

1. What do you think are the most important refuge management issues facing Bond Swamp NWR?

2. How do you think the above issues should be addressed?

3. How would you like to see the habitats and wildlife be managed at Bond Swamp NWR.

4. Are the types of public use and visitation permitted and encouraged by the Refuge appropriate?

Also, please provide any other comments or suggestions for how you would like to see Bond Swamp NWR managed.

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My thoughts about question 1.

The most important threat facing Bond Swamp is urbanization. The swamp is a wildlife refuge, not a city park. Many Maconites see this “unused land” as perfect for an urban wildlife island as Macon and Warner Robins continue to grow together. This wildlife island will then become “developed ala the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Atlanta, run by US Parks, not Fish and Wildlife. The most important issue facing the Bond Swamp Wildlife Refuge is keeping it wild. Keeping it wild means keeping it undeveloped.

As to question 2 above.

Traditional uses like hunting and fishing are increasingly absent from the landscape near urbanized development, like Macon. Focusing use on these traditional outdoor activities has proven to be an invaluable way of linking the community to the land. Increased access for hunting of all types, especially small-game recreational hunting, is critically important to fend off uses that degrade the habitat (like paved bike and jogging paths, restrooms, inclement weather shelters, etc). Hunting establishes a balance between urban and wild and creates a strong local constituency strongly supportive of the wild-friendly condition that Bond Swamp now enjoys.

Preserve the wildness of Bond Swamp by significantly increasing small-game hunting opportunities as well as fishing opportunities, but keep the land as swamp, not as landscaped federal green space.

As to question 3 above.

The trend toward “wilderness” and protection of land from natural challenges has gone too far.

Wilderness is a term that discounts the existence of mankind and his impact upon the natural world. Such a thought process is flawed from its beginning.

Man and nature developed together just as every other living thing developed with nature. Fire suppression is being demonstrated as bad natural policy. Flood control or mitigation in the swamp would be bad policy. The current policy of denying small-game hunting is a policy without a natural foundation. The constraint of deer hunting opportunities is overly restrictive.

That said, strategies that restore the natural fauna and flora that pre-dates high-grading of the timber would be positive management steps. Timber harvests to achieve such goals are acceptable, as is use of the fund generated by such timber sales for continued habitat improvement.

And question 4 above.

Hunting access to the property is way too tight. Small game hunting is currently not allowed. Hunting small game like squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, and waterfowl should be made available. Deer hunting appears to be below the level necessary to control the herd. If this is true, USFWS would be failing in its responsibility to manage the land appropriately. USFWS should move immediately to seek partners to help address any issues that prevent reasonable access by the hunting public to that property. There are excellent opportunities to synergize management issues with hunting and fishing access and then with community-based groups around the swamp.

Hunting is not public use so much as it is wild use. Wild use is compatible with a swamp. Public use includes many incompatibilities of use with a swamp. (cottonmouths and jogging trails are not likely good neighbors… keep the cottonmouths).

The important values of the wild swamp can be shared with the broader community. That knowledge about and the recognition of the value of the swamp will be much greater with increased wild-use of the swamp. This wild-use will demonstrate a direct and an important value to the broader community and make the continued presence and wild use of the swamp important to them.

These are just some of my thoughts. No doubt you have your own.
The important thing is to comment positively and in your own words to USFWS about hunting at Bond Swamp NWR.

Send your comments, brief or lengthy, to the contact listed below.

Please take a moment to send your thoughts/recommendations to Carolyn Johnson, Assistant Refuge Manager. Ms. Johnson’s email address is carolyn_johnson@fws.gov

Please also send this Call-to-Action to your hunting and fishing buddies.

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