Because duck populations don't fluctuate all that much from year to year ..... they tend to "trend" in a direction over a number of years. Pintail populations have been declining for the last 3 years; they just now reached the level of not supporting the 2 bird bag. More important, our harvest regulations don't seem to affect that trend; when we restrict, the population does not rebound and when we liberalize, the population continues to increase. Lastly, we've been setting goose regulations on prior year data for years, and the Canadians have been setting their seasons in October of the year before. Consequently, there seems to be little risk in a 1-year lag time between the population data being collected and the seasons being set. In exchange, we set the seasons earlier and the USFWS has time to go through all the legal processes required for the setting of federal law, which have been shorted for all these years, and the process made even worse by extended frameworks. This change was a legal/administrative change forced upon us by the bounds of legal law-setting that could only be overcome by convincing biological issues. For ducks, that doesn't seem to be all that big a deal. Time will tell. No. But under the habitat conditions and population sizes of the past 20+ years, as well as the small impact that hunting mortality seems to have on population trends, it just hasn't been the most optimal strategy to have anything but liberal. We do have an issue of 60/6 and 45/6 (liberal and moderate) not being different enough for there to be a predictable difference in harvest rate, so the moderate has almost disappeared from our matrix. We can't rule out that maybe we just don't understand all the factors that drive overall duck population dynamics through survival and reproduction, but that's why we fly the survey every year rather than use models based on what we think we know. You actually see the ducks, whether you think there should be more or fewer. We have seen high, consistent water availability on the prairie breeding grounds at the same time that the CRP and grassland reductions have occurred. In Canada, I have seen for myself the effect of that on cultivated habitat where ducks successfully nest there in big numbers when there is lots of water. Ducks are resilient, especially mallards on which our harvest regulations are based, and the relationship between grassland cover may be different with lots of water on the landscape. What I do know is that when water (pond) numbers decline over broad areas of the breeding grounds, and they have to some time, we are set for the biggest drop in duck populations on record ....... unless we really don't know what's going on.