The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to change rules at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in order to open 13,000 acres to hunting. The change would mean hunting is allowed in 40% of the Refuge.
The priorities of national wildlife refuges and national park service areas are now to promote hunting, fishing and shooting, according to an order signed last fall by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. But hunting would be an additional stressor on already threatened Great Salt Lake wetlands.
The Bear River provides about 60% of the fresh water that flows into Great Salt Lake. However, a proposed Bear River Development Project would divert 22,000 acre-feet of water for human use, and Utah and Idaho have requested to divert an additional 400,000 acre-feet of runoff from Bear Lake. If either or both of these projects happens, there will be no water left for birds.
Currently, the Refuge supports over 250 species of migratory birds including 67 species that use the area for nesting. Priority species include white-faced ibis, American white pelican, snowy plover, black-necked stilt, cinnamon teal and tundra swan.
The Refuge was created in 1928 after public concern over huge bird die-offs.
Public comments are due by July 8. Send comments to BearRiverRefugehunt@fws.gov. More info: fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=2147614618