Nisqually NWR information series

Discussion in 'Washington Flyway Forum' started by All Day, Dec 25, 2017.

  1. All Day

    All Day Elite Refuge Member

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    Hi all. Many of you already know me but for the rest of you my name is Kurt Snyder. At this time I am (still) Chairman for the Grays Harbor Chapter of the Washington Waterfowl Association. www.waduck.org
    I have been visiting and hunting on the Nisqually NWR for seemingly a lifetime. What has prompted me to write this was that a fellow hunter recently asked about "the refuge". He heard that the hunting there was at an all time low. This got me to thinking that I should ask around and see if this was indeed true. Turns out it is.
    So I thought some information sharing was in order. I'll start this series with an article written by the now manager of the Nisqually NWR, Glynnis Nakai. Her statement in this article gives a pretty good view of the refuge. She does leave out a few items but in her defense she was limited to just one page. Feel free to comment but please leave the vulgarities out. Keep your statements as factual and truthful as best as you can. Thanks.
    I have italicized, underlined and emboldened a few things I thought were important.

    On the Wing By Glynnis Nakai. Why is hunting allowed on refuges? A question we hear frequently at this time of year when waterfowl season is open in the Nisqually River Delta. This may seem inconsistent with the term “refuge” as a safe haven; however, the refuge’s mission is not only to protect and enhance habitat for wildlife but also to provide wildlife-dependent opportunities for the public. Hunting is one of the six priority uses on refuges as defined by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, and is given equal consideration as wildlife observation, wildlife photography, fishing, education, and interpretation, as long as the activity is compatible and an appropriate use on the refuge. The decision to permit hunting is determined on a refuge-by-refuge basis and is dependent on a number of factors, including: biological integrity, diversity, environmental health, and effects on other refuge programs. Hunting can be a wildlife management tool to maintain a healthy, sustainable population without impacting the habitat they rely upon (e.g., over-browsing). Harvesting of wildlife on refuges is carefully evaluated and regulated to ensure there is a balance between population levels and wildlife habitat. Hunting is also a traditional recreation in America’s heritage that still gets passed down through the generations. Funds from hunting licenses, Federal duck stamps, and excise taxes on hunting equipment and ammunition help purchase and set aside millions of acres for wildlife. For example, Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually NWR was established in 1974 primarily with revenue generated from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act. In addition, appropriations were authorized by the Wetlands Loan Act, from import duties collected on arms and ammunition for hunting, and receipts from the sale of refuge admission permits. The 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (USFWS, August 2017) reported 11.5 million hunters throughout the country with expenditures totaling $25.6 billion. These revenues support wildlife and habitat conservation efforts in every state and U.S. Territory. Recent Secretarial Orders (SO3347, SO 3356) focus on providing and enhancing opportunities for Americans to hunt and fish on public lands, where feasible, which in the end, supports conservation and the addition of lands into the National Wildlife Refuge System.
     
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  2. WidgeonmanGH

    WidgeonmanGH Elite Refuge Member

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    I don't often hunt the weekends so it is difficult for me to say if hunting is down or not, but it does not surprise me that it is down. I think that is what they intended when they reduced the shell limit and it certainly should not be surprising when they took out the dikes.

    I don't have data but I would be willing to bet that the number of birds that the refuge holds has been dramatically decreased. Do you remember the days when you had a calm blue bird day and the wigeon and other ducks would raft out on the sound. I haven't seen that once since they removed the dikes. The birds did not disappear of course, they just use the farm land further into the valley. Essentially by removing the dikes and reducing the amount of fresh water flooded fields they shifted the birds from publicly available hunting onto private property further into the valley. I am sure the clubs don't mind.

    I aslo suspect that the makeup of the birds that use the refuge has changed. For instance I would bet that wigeon stayed the same but mallards, teal, and pintail are significantly reduced. In previous years I would kill a few mallards a year while primarily targeting wigeon. Last year I did not kill a mallard on the Nisqually. That is not to say they are not there, it is just that they are not there in the numbers that they were. I have stopped taking mallard decoys out into the field and now just take wigeon.

    The Nisqually is a tough place to hunt, reduce the number of birds, increase regulations (not that it is enforced but who wants to risk it), patchwork boundaries, and surprise surprise the hunter numbers go down.

    Having said that, I target wigeon and my hunting is just fine and I like not having the competition.

    .02 from someone who has hunted it for the last 18 years.
     
  3. All Day

    All Day Elite Refuge Member

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    Well written. The numbers of wintering waterfowl are down significantly since 2008. Across the board. No counts are taken now. OK maybe we get a one day count annually. BUT for some reason the USFWS can't provide us with any pre dyke moving count info. The Friends of Nisqually did several seasons of boat surveys but those counts are somehow unavailable. Remember the old guy at the Luhr ramp? Eye witnesses, hunters will all pretty much say the same things you wrote. We are still waiting on some increased salmon counts but that info must be classified.
     
  4. WidgeonmanGH

    WidgeonmanGH Elite Refuge Member

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    I do remember the guy at the Luhr ramp. I used to have a couple of his end of the year surveys with the dates he took data and the results. If I happen to find them in my old hunting journals I will scan them and post them up. They were great. When you compared them side by side in graphs you could actually tell the peak of the migration by looking at average number of birds killed per hunter. It was cool.

    What is the point at this point? It is what it is. Money wins. They don't show the data because the truth does matter at this point. They are not going to put the dikes back, my hope is that they don't get it in their head that they need to "fix" something. I could imagine them doing something like putting in fixed "blinds" so as to make it more available to hunters and "increase" their numbers. The answer to increasing number of hunters using an area is obvious, increase the ducks and we will figure it out. If they wanted to increase hunter access then buy/lease some farm land up the valley and replace the flooded freshwater fields they drained while "improving" the habitat. I would probably not hunt the area as it would inundated with hunters and I am happy where I am at. But if that is their goal then that would be a direction to head.

    There are less ducks to hunt, but the ducks that are there are mostly wigeon, which is my favorite bird anyway. I do miss the huge rafts of birds that used to loaf in-between the flats and the shipwreck. At the tide switch groups of 10 -20 would get up and fly up the river or the McCalsiter. But they are gone for good. So you hunt what you got while you got it.
     
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  5. All Day

    All Day Elite Refuge Member

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    Again, well written! I think we could maybe get some hunter support then get more than 72 acres of refuge to hunt. Put the boundaries back to pre dyke destruction times. Red Salmon Creek on the east shore line would be cool to hunt again. They call it a frigging "Research Natural Area" now so it can't be accessed conveniently during the hunting season. I've never been a big fan of designated blinds but am open to the subject. Close more of the boardwalk (eyesore) to John Q. for the entire migration, not just during the hunting season. Better management for what acreage that's left catered to wildfowl. It's getting real "thick" out there in the fresh water areas. These are some ideas I've been pondering.
     
  6. WidgeonmanGH

    WidgeonmanGH Elite Refuge Member

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    Red Salmon Creek was always closed except for some reservation guys (I think). I actually think that is a good thing. There does need to be a few safe zones to keep the birds around.

    My hope is that they leave it alone.
     
  7. JEG

    JEG New Member

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    I know nothing about this and the specifics of Nisqually, but I've learned at other places in both CO and NY, the more "they" tinker with zones and regulations, the more of a PITA it becomes to hunt there, and in short order the hunters figure it's not worth the effort and they go elsewhere. At the start, that seems OK, because the land, water, and animals don't get disturbed, but without humans or interested in managing and conserving the resources, it quickly degrades to a wasteland. Without hunters and the support we provide, both the $ and time and advocacy, in short order, the fauna will leave, the flora will overwhelm the landscape, and a select few will weasel their way into gaining access to it and then rape the land. It's the classic dilemma of management of resources ... and the logic of capitalism is relentless. Despite knowing that there are a lot of dirtbag hunters out there (not all of us have adopted the conservation & management ethos, and far too many are wasteful, unethical, and selfish), the worse thing that can happen to Nisqually or any wildlife area/refugee is for hunters to be driven from it.
     
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  8. All Day

    All Day Elite Refuge Member

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    I was hunting that shore for most of my life. When the Brakkett property went to the tribes they also claimed the area that is now closed. Hunting was allowed for many years and believe me there is plenty of closed area for the waterfowl.
     
  9. WidgeonmanGH

    WidgeonmanGH Elite Refuge Member

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    I have only hunted here since 2000 so I am sure you have more experience than I. I still hope they just leave it like it is and screw up some other hunting spot. This one will be what it is now and not significantly change unless they start messing with it.

    .02
     
  10. All Day

    All Day Elite Refuge Member

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    The lack of widgeon flotillas in the delta has me worried. The loss of fresh water habitat is taking a toll on this area. It wasn't even considered when the "salmon recovery plan" was initiated. I could fill pages on the old compared to the new but I am going to try and start from the beginning with a continuation of this series. The reason I started with Glynnis Nakai's story is to put out who paid for this refuge and who pays for it now in the words of that current management.
     

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