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#533735 - 01/12/19 08:43 PM Re: Lowering limit on mallards in Atlantic Flyway [Re: Stan]
halk Offline
Sidelock

Registered: 11/20/15
Posts: 119
My point is that these smaller plots would serve as demonstration areas, like small units of the big managed marshes in SK. They would be projects local DU members might be able to help with. The farmers and ranchers who own the would begin to get income from the units when the wetlands once again become productive of hay or forage.

If you care to wade through it, here is my letter to The Nature Conservancy where I tried more of an ecological approach, but kept my plea for more participation in projects by members.

The Nature Conservancy
Meeting date 21 Sept, 2018'
Capital Gallery,
109 N. 4rh St.
Bismarck, ND 58502

Dear TNC,

I have an eye problem that precludes my attendance at the meeting. Please accept this letter as my contribution as a volunteer.

“We’ve lost our shorelines” an old North Dakota duck hunter told me about thirty ago. Twenty years before that, another, an airlines pilot, claimed there was “no better duck hunting than in those hard-bottomed pasture sloughs.” I agreed, having hunted ducks on the prairies since before the Korean War where as kids in western Minnesota, we also shot most of our ducks around wetlands in pastures or hayfields. Most of those birds were locals. Now I can drive for 50 miles in that area during midsummer and not see a brood of ducks; except for a few herons and egrets, waterbirds are almost non-existent.

I’m like a lot of TNC members that yearn to do some outdoor work to benefit our cause. We renew our memberships and get a calendar and a magazine. But unlike our local wildlife clubs, member projects are almost unheard of, at least in the northern prairies. I would like to see the Conservancy change course a bit, by putting some effort into private lands. I believe the most beneficial small projects in this area would involve shoreline restorations.

In the prairie region, other conservation groups such as Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever, along with state and federal departments and agencies have spent a lot of money acquiring, preserving, and restoring wetlands and improving upland nesting habitats for waterfowl, yet in my opinion brood production and use of these habitats by other birds is generally poor. Conversely, numbers of broods on privately-owned wetlands is often much higher than on public waters, especially during wet years. Here in central North Dakota where I have lived for 55 years, I see most broods on private wetlands in cropfields, hayfields, and pastures, and far fewer on idle land, especially seeded grasslands idled for soil conservation or wildlife production. I believe wetlands in pastures are the most productive and for good reason; they are located under conditions that most closely simulate the natural state of grasslands worldwide, ecosystems created and maintained by grazing animals and fire. Studies have shown that meadows and shallow marshes have greater bird species diversity than other habitat types.

Ecologists and botanists recognize many types of plant communities in forests, deserts, and seacoasts. These communities are relatively stable compared to those in the world’s grasslands that undergo constant change in response to continental climates. The migratory big game herds that once roamed the world’s grasslands were responding to these changes in search of food, much like breeding birds that move to areas of the Prairie Pothole Region where water conditions are most favorable. Here, most breeding and many migrant waterbirds are attracted by the invertebrate animal foods produced in plant communities that develop in the warm, shallow sunlit waters along shorelines rather than in deeper areas or those shaded by tall vegetation. Similar, though not as productive communities can develop even when the grasslands have been destroyed, as when basins with crop residue or even bare tilled soil flood after spring snowmelt or heavy summer rains. Again, the main attractant for breeding waterbirds is the invertebrate protein essential for egg production and brood survival.

Waterfowl biologists have long been aware of these habitat needs. For example, managers often clip or hay shoreline vegetation or raise water levels to inundate dry shorelines to simulate the natural conditions of grazed vegetation in shallow sunlit water.

Most of today’s nature lovers have never experienced the joy of seeing and hearing the phalaropes, sandpipers, willets, and godwits while walking the cowpaths and shallow waters around grazed prairie wetlands. These meadow and marsh plant communities disappear under cultivation, even though the soils where they once flourished are not artificially drained. During dry years, annual crops can be raised, but when water returns, communities of pioneering plants, often short, non-native annuals, quickly develop. If surface water persists for several consecutive years or cultivation ceases, stands of tall perennials such as cattail and canarygrass quickly become dominant. Litter buildup often impedes further cultivation and if idle conditions persist, woody perennials such as willows and cottonwood can render the former meadows and marshes unfit for crop or even hay production. Tens of thousands of acres of both public and private wetlands in the eastern Dakotas and western Minnesota are now ecologically and economically dead.

But what happened to the ducks? Hunters formed Save The Wetlands in Minnesota as farm equipment got bigger and shallow wetlands became nuisance areas, with drainage often assisted by government. I remember cleaning smelt for one of their banquets in Fergus Falls in the mid-1950's. This effort and those of Ducks Unlimited (DU) were the beginning of the massive wetlands acquisition and easement program that has protected so many wetland basins in the Prairie Pothole Region.

Looking back, I feel the government and DU overreacted to research that showed the attractiveness of certain types of dense upland nesting cover to breeding ducks and underestimated the importance of feeding areas. Most efforts created shaded ground where grazed prairie once abounded. In tracts containing wetlands, farming and livestock operations ceased. Grass or grass/legume mixtures were seeded, and if stands were established the lands were left idle, often for ten or more years. The result? Most prairie birds disappeared. Especially hard hit were species that fed in shallow water or nested in short upland cover where insects are their principal food.

Grasslands worldwide developed under a regime of a highly variable climate, fire and mammalian herbivory, and the wetlands lying within these grasslands were subject to the same natural forces. These wetlands are the source of much of the biodiversity. So I suggest that the Conservancy put more emphasis on habitat restoration, especially in wetlands, both on its holdings and private land. The tools should be burning and grazing, alone or preferably in combination. This is where groups of volunteer members, under the leadership of Conservancy personnel, could greatly benefit the ecological health of the Prairie Pothole Region.

Prescribed burns on many idle wetlands are not difficult and equipment needs are minimal. More often than not the basins are surrounded by cultivated land and roads that provide reliable firebreaks. I envision small groups of TNC volunteers, led by an experienced person or TNC employee, conducting prescribed burns on these wetlands and assisting with burns on TNC land. Firebreaks in the common mid-grass communities (bromegrass or mixtures of bromegrass with alfalfa and quackgrass) that border most roads in the region are easy to construct simply by burning between wheeltracks, and no water is required. I have done miles of these singlehandedly and have not had an escaped fire. After these firebreaks are completed, all that is required is to wait for the proper wind direction and use backing fires to finish the burn. Smoke management for traffic safety is seldom a problem, and if it is, two people on the road with flags on the edges of any low-visibility areas are all that is needed.

Shoreline restoration by grazing would be a bit more difficult. Grazing by cattle, horses, or sheep would all be of great benefit and ideal if conducted after burns as is done with horses on the world-class French wetland, the Camarque. In our region, I see TNC members helping to build and maintain fences and gates either permanent or temporary, and possibly helping load and move livestock. Landowners would welcome a bit of additional income from wetlands that currently provide none. Farmers without livestock could offer temporary pastures to neighbors. Much forage is currently wasted in idle wetlands. Hay production on these wetlands should also be considered.

In short I would like to see the Conservancy engage in wetland land management activities like The Prairie Enthusiasts, of which I am a member, does on small tracts of upland prairie in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota. Volunteers clear and burn brush and trees, gather and plant seeds and plugs, remove trash and old fences, etc. These activities have greatly increased the abundance and diversity of native plants and animals, a goal in common the The Nature Conservancy.

Sincerely,

Hal Kantrud
Jamestown ND

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#533739 - 01/12/19 11:17 PM Re: Lowering limit on mallards in Atlantic Flyway [Re: canvasback]
King Brown Offline
Sidelock
**

Registered: 06/02/02
Posts: 8923
Loc: Nova Scotia
Straighten me out on gunning in refuges, James. Agree on protecting habitat. Waterfowl populations and hunting opportunities outside refuges improved when refuges were established here. Ducks and geese move in and out or don't seem to "tend" at all in refuges/sanctuaries around here.

Guys I hunt with don't limit because there's always a chance to bring birds to the pan. Geese don't seem to favour refuges as protection, mostly keeping to their old feeding patterns. The Tragedy of the Commons would be on my mind if sanctuaries were opened with no rest anywhere for the birds.

What am I missing? (I don't know if it has anything to do with it: I've seen game wardens and conservation officers on sidewalks and going about in trucks and vans but never while waterfowling anywhere. That shoots down my Tragedy concerns but whatever is going on it seems to work: lots of birds.)

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#533740 - 01/12/19 11:51 PM Re: Lowering limit on mallards in Atlantic Flyway [Re: Stan]
canvasback Offline
Sidelock
***

Registered: 10/16/09
Posts: 4659
Loc: Ontario, Canada
King, not so much with ducks but any refuge of any sort I see in the fall is thick and by that I mean in the 1000's and 10's of 1000's with Canadas. And they know the difference to a T. This field they are in, that one they are not.

But that's really beside the point. What I support is science based retention of wetlands, few to none waterfowl "refuges" (I'm separating out from that places like national parks you can't hunt anything in) and bag limits that represent a harvest-able total.

I'm making no comment on the OP....I don't know enough about mallard populations along the East Coast. What I'm really on about is the classic government overreach. And the public servants unshakeable belief that they know better than everyone else. Refuges are a way to discourage hunting, the way governments use them today.

And George, those little DU projects you appreciate so much in Saskatchewan.....odds are most were completed decades ago....when DU still had the hunters' backs. I see the same signs in Manitoba. I don't see many new ones.

The one project I've been involved with lately (as the land owner) was what turned out to be a $3.5 million project that was a joint venture between Delta, DU, Manitoba and a bit of involvement by the feds....and me. The reality is I sacrificed the beauty and isolation of my 250 acres (along with having to agree to weekly access across my property) for the betterment of the whole marsh. And I was, by the nature of the problem in the marsh they were/are trying to solve, the only landowner involved. Despite assurances they wouldn't, they utterly destroyed the ambience of my place. The government coughed up most of the dough, DU took the management lead, Delta provided the science, the ducks win, I got screwed.


Edited by canvasback (01/12/19 11:52 PM)
_________________________
The world cries out for such: he is needed & needed badly- the man who can carry a message to Garcia

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#533741 - 01/12/19 11:54 PM Re: Lowering limit on mallards in Atlantic Flyway [Re: Stan]
Stan Online   content
Sidelock
**

Registered: 01/03/02
Posts: 8483
Loc: somwers in Jawja
If I may interject, King, and I know you weren't addressing me, it doesn't work that way, necessarily, here. I have hunted lands adjoining refuges where the attraction was just as great as that on the refuge. But, the numbers of ducks were clearly only a fraction of that which I could see on the refuge.

One instance I remember clearly........I was hunting private land which was a flooded soybean field. 150 yards away was a levee which was the boundary of the refuge. I saw a windmill, or a tornado, of ducks over the refuge, maybe 300-400 yards away. If you have never witnessed the sight, it consists of thousands of ducks circling to alight, over an area already containing thousands of ducks. Those in the air are circling, as jet airplanes circle an airport, waiting to land. It is an amazing sight.

Anyway, the ducks clearly knew the refuge was a safe haven, with no shooting, and chose it over our flooded bean field, which was a very attractive place. They know the difference at times, no question.

That particular instance was near Cotton Plant, Arkansas. But, the same scenario occurrs in other places, including Reelfoot Lake, TN.

SRH


Edited by Stan (01/13/19 12:03 AM)
_________________________
"Ask yourself how old you would be, if you didn't know the day you were born" Toby Keith

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#533748 - 01/13/19 09:26 AM Re: Lowering limit on mallards in Atlantic Flyway [Re: Stan]
BrentD Offline
Sidelock
**

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 3271
Loc: Iowa
The refuge system seems to work quite well for waterfowl in the Midwest. Without it, birds would be in Arkansas before Halloween. You can hunt waterfowl on the refuges in some instances, but that hunting is rarely very good. Better hunting in in the fields surrounding the refuge to a distance of a couple tens of miles out. Lots of guys specialize in hunting snow geese in particular that way. This fall I was watching duck hunters that knew what they were doing, and they did very well indeed.

It is also a method that has worked for some commercial fisheries as well.

I don't see a problem.

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#533749 - 01/13/19 09:29 AM Re: Lowering limit on mallards in Atlantic Flyway [Re: Stan]
Run With The Fox Offline
Sidelock
**

Registered: 05/16/08
Posts: 5854
Loc: Michigan
Stan- we see the same scenarios here in MI- on the managed waterfowling areas- Allegan Todd Farm, Fish Point, Point Moullie, Harsen's Island and the Muskegon wasterwater floodings (aka- "The poop factory")You can bet your last $ that those birds know the boundaries of the refuge (no shooting) zones, and only a real strong wind and overcast day can maybe get them in range for you.
_________________________
Now cry Havoc-and let slip the Dogs of War

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#533759 - 01/13/19 11:14 AM Re: Lowering limit on mallards in Atlantic Flyway [Re: Stan]
craigd Offline
Sidelock
**

Registered: 02/18/09
Posts: 5502
I believe the waterfowl refuge system is generally funded by the sportsman, but subject to be taken by non hunting interests. I know these refuges can hold waterfowl in an area longer than they may stay, but the birds have become conditioned and the 'bird watching' zones are ever expanding, in many examples. When the birds are crammed in like sardines, refuges aren't all that different from golf courses.

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#533761 - 01/13/19 11:36 AM Re: Lowering limit on mallards in Atlantic Flyway [Re: Stan]
BrentD Offline
Sidelock
**

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 3271
Loc: Iowa
Not seen any ever expanding bird watching zones. Only a few of the biggest have any appreciable bird watching at all in my state.

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#533762 - 01/13/19 12:05 PM Re: Lowering limit on mallards in Atlantic Flyway [Re: Stan]
King Brown Offline
Sidelock
**

Registered: 06/02/02
Posts: 8923
Loc: Nova Scotia
The difference could be pressure on the ducks, Stan. There seems fewer hunters here as the years go by. Hunters who've given up use their pickups to drive to mailboxes at end of their driveways.

My experience in our harbour, depending on ice or open water, sometimes involves blinds and decoys on a tiny island and a marsh on outside edges of a refuge, common feeding places.

Local birds and northern migrants have more feeding places outside the refuge. They don't huddle inside for protection. I've a dozen guaranteed good chances of my choosing within 2 1/2 miles of the refuge.

I'm not aware of hunters hereabouts ever asking for access to refuges. Could it be your circumstances are like pictures I see of anglers elbow-to-elbow on popular US streams: bim-bam, skybustin', refuges good places for birds to be?

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#533765 - 01/13/19 12:22 PM Re: Lowering limit on mallards in Atlantic Flyway [Re: Stan]
Geo. Newbern Offline
Sidelock
***

Registered: 01/02/02
Posts: 6263
Loc: Georgia, USA
My opinion is that refuges should be nothing more than refuges. Opening them to hunting would defeat their purpose, I think.

However, the practice of baiting the birds to keep them on the refuge should be halted. Keeping birds in Wisconsin by feeding them to prevent natural migration, (short-stopping) is not only an unfair intervention against Arkansas hunters, but could very well be a death trap for the birds...Geo

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