KRC Testimony In Opposition To Sandhill Crane Hunt Posted: June 22, 2011
TESTIMONY OF TOM FITZGERALD BEFORE THE KENTUCKY FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION IN OPPOSITION TO PPROPOSED HUNT PLAN FOR EASTERN POPULATION OF SANDHILL CRANES
JUNE 3, 2011
Commissioners, my name is Tom FitzGerald, and I am Director of the Kentucky Resources Council, and have been for going on 27 years. This is the first time that I have appeared before the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources Commission, which is probably a good thing, because no one ever calls me when they are having a good day. They call when things are not going so well. I’m reminded of the story of the 78-year old child who never spoke, and they had him tested and could find nothing wrong. One night at dinner he looks up and says “these peas are cold.” The parents cry “it’s a miracle” and ask him why he had waited so long to speak, and he responded that “well, everything was okay until now.”
I’m here to ask that you postpone the decision to approve the regulation that would authorize the hunt for the sandhill cranes. And let me tell you why. I came to the issue late, but I’m a quick study, and I have read stack of emails, the regional plan, the Kentucky plan, the critiques of the Kentucky plan, and a number of letters from different groups. I am concerned that there is no need to rush to judgment right now and the impression, if not the reality, is that the agency – the staff, not the commission – is very invested in this proposal and has gone out beyond the role of developing a management plan, to actively and aggressively advocating the plan. To the extent that I’ve seen emails from other organizations like NRA ILA and others that have said that our hunting future is at risk and that this is a referendum on whether we’ll be able to hunt in the future. That is simply not the case.
The question before you is a very discrete question – whether to extend a limited hunting season on an experimental basis on a species the eastern population of which has not been hunted in almost 100 years. That is a weighty decision. This is one that I came to not because I traditionally deal with fish and wildlife issues. I come to this issue because of my concern, voiced to me from number of individuals, that the public involvement was coming late in the process when the agency was not soliciting input – it was aggressively defending a plan that it was heavily invested in.
My concern is, in looking at the science, that there are still some questions out there. I’m concerned that the International Crane Foundation, which I had really never dealt with before, has really been trashed in abstentia in a way I don’t think they deserve, and in a way that is very professional – and I’m sorry to be that blunt about it. The ICF has commented on Tennessee’s plan, as you are aware. The staff were seeking a hunt, their fish and wildlife resources agency listened to the scientific concerns, looked at a scientific survey that was conducted by UT and I’m assuming if we do this, we’d find much the same thing – the community at large was very divided on whether to extend hunting to sandhill cranes. 32% of the public polled supported it and 37% opposed it. Of the hunters versus non-hunters, the numbers opposed were 22% and 42% respectively. Of the license holders in Tennessee, 30% were opposed to the hunt. So even within the traditional hunting community, there was not broad consensus about extending hunting to this particular population. I think in part it is because it is a majestic species. . We’ve not done that kind of consensus building in Kentucky or surveying to find out if this is something that the community at large and the hunting population supports and wants to go forward with.
Instead, we find ourselves at cross-purposes with people who should be our allies. This should be a conversation among friends. I consider myself a friend to this agency – you all don’t know me but I’ve spent a lot of time in 33 years in the legislature defending this agency from folks who wanted to take the In Lieu Fee money from this agency to use for other purposes, from folks who want to let horses roam free on the wildlife management areas and force you to defend why they can’t – even though that community hasn’t paid a cent toward the management of these areas – so I consider myself a friend of this agency. I also helped write the language to the constitutional amendment to make sure that it served its intended purpose without allowing felons to carry guns – there were some wording issues in the national model that I think NRA proposed
My concern is that the way this has been approached – the fact that a hunt plan was filed a year and more before the discussion had come to this body to determine whether to do so, is something that causes me great pause. I would ask that you do just one thing – I would ask that you postpone a decision and bring the International Crane Foundation here – they wanted to be here today but were told they had to file what they wanted to present thirty days in advance, and were not be given the twenty minutes they requested in order to present their concerns with the science both of the Kentucky plan and the regional management plan on which it is based
Let’s make sure, before you go forward. There are parts of your plan that admittedly are conservative in the approach, but the harvest rate may not be, and the concern that has been voiced is that it may disproportionately impact the breeding population in the upper Midwest. Rather than continuing to try to find ways to minimize the ICF’s research – to call it magical changes or do other things to cast dispersions on it – bring them in and let’s make sure the science is sound and then you can make the policy decision. The policy decision is your choice – should we extend hunting opportunities to this population or not – but let’s make sure first and foremost that the science is sound and we are not putting a recovering population at risk because we are not closing the loop – because we haven’t done the population modeling to determine what the potential impact could be of this hunt at the time proposed on certain breeding subpopulations.
I’d be happy to go through the ICF’s comments – I think you all have seen them and I know you all have read them if you received them. There was a response that Mr. Barzen presented to the fish and wildlife presentation where they suggested they had done the worst case modeling, and he takes exception at five separate points to the assumptions contained in that. I think I better go through these quickly since we may not have the opportunity to have Mr. Barzen be here in person to discuss these.
One – there are no data of which I’m aware of supporting the EP numbering 80 to 100,000 birds – does everyone have a copy of that? If everyone has a copy, then I won’t read it. I just want to make sure you understand that the science – coming from an organization that exists for no other purpose than to help the management of this species for 38 years they’ve been in business to do that. They don’t take a position for or against hunting – they believe that broad public input is necessary to help the survival of this species for the hunting and non-hunting community, and they believe that sound science should be the basis for any decision, in addition to taking into consideration the broad public policy ramifications.
I’m going to end there – I’d be happy to answer any questions – appreciate your taking the time and allowing people to comment today. I know this is a decision you do not enter into lightly. I think we all agree that when an average 10-year old can name 1,000 corporate logos but can only name 3 things in their backyard, then we’ve got a long way to go to get this young population outdoors enjoying nature, and to give them the opportunities for hunting and fishing and wildlife viewing that we have all taken for granted but which is really being lost in the next generation.
I would ask that you defer the decision – bring the ICF down here. Let’s go through the science in a way that we’re not sniping at people in abstentia, and let them answer the concerns that have been raised. The suggestion by the commissioner raised that the change in ICF population numbers was “magical” – let them come down and defend themselves because they are an organization that is very well respected. They are very good at the science and that’s all they do – try to advocate the wise management of this resource. Thank you.