For immediate release…May 16, 2006
Delta Protests Quebec Plan to Limit Hunting On Marshes Secured by NAWMP Funds
OTTAWA—Quebec plans to limit waterfowl hunting on marshes secured largely by hunters’ contributions through the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, and Dr. Robert Bailey thinks that’s wrong.
Bailey should know—back in the 1980s he was one of NAWMP’s founding fathers.
Under the Quebec plan, marshes secured by NAWMP and Ducks Unlimited would be incorporated into the province’s largest wildlife refuge, and hunting in this new refuge would be restricted to designated public blinds. Historically in public ownership, these lands were important shooting grounds for area waterfowlers.
As an avid duck hunter, Bailey worries that limiting hunter access will lead to further erosion of Canada’s already-endangered waterfowl hunting heritage, and as one of the architects who designed NAWMP, he’s determined not to let that happen.
Ratified by the governments of Canada and the US in 1986, NAWMP was a blueprint for restoring migratory waterfowl numbers to their 1970’s levels through habitat restoration. Much of the funding to achieve the plan’s goal comes from duck hunters.
“This new plan is another step in a process that could eventually eliminate hunting on public properties on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River,” says Bailey, who serves as Delta Waterfowl’s Vice President of Policy for Canada. “It represents an incremental loss of places to hunt ducks, despite the fact that hunters are the driving force behind habitat conservation.
“Waterfowlers from Canada and the US have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars through NAWMP, but when it comes to defending hunters’ rights on the Ottawa River, NAWMP partners often prefer to look the other way,” Bailey says. “NAWMP partners are well-positioned to defend hunters’ rights, but may be reluctant to do so for fear of repercussions from funding sources.
“The closure to hunting of lands secured with hunter’s dollars underscores the fact that good conservation deeds alone will not preserve Canada’s endangered hunting heritage. Hunters have already seen important waterfowl staging habitats on the Ottawa River declared off limits to hunters.”
Closures began several years ago when the city of Gatineau passed a firearm discharge bylaw in an area impacted by NAWMP conservation efforts. Gatineau later approved an exemption to the bylaw, allowing waterfowl hunting in marshes secured by NAWMP adjacent to the city.
Further east, the Quebec government designated the Plaisance Wildlife Reserve as a new provincial park, and added additional marshlands originally protected by NAWMP. The province later closed the park—including NAWMP properties—to hunting in response to protests from anti-hunters.
Quebec now proposes to incorporate remaining public marshes and NAWMP partner properties along the river into the new urban refuge. “If waterfowl hunting is confined to designated blinds within the new refuge, the freelance tradition of waterfowling along the river corridor will be lost,” says Bailey.
“When duck hunters provide conservation dollars to secure habitat, their interests must be protected, but that hasn’t always happened. Local decision-makers do not often appreciate the environmental, social and economic benefits of waterfowl hunting, so these values don’t enter into their decisions.”
Point Pelee National Park on Lake Erie is another example of lost hunter opportunity, Bailey says. Despite hunter contributions and agreements with hunters to turn over properties they controlled to help form the park, Environment Canada acquiesced to pressure from anti-hunters and terminated hunting at Point Pelee. Hunters were not compensated for the loss of opportunity when the park was closed to hunting.
The number of licensed migratory bird hunters in Canada has shrunk by two-thirds since the 1970s, which means fewer dollars to secure waterfowl habitat.
“Conservation groups need to promote hunting, and hunters should ensure that they do,” says Bailey. “This is the only win-win scenario for hunting and habitat conservation.”