Parks Under Pressure

Will a recent presidential executive order mean more hunting on federal land?

Some of our more outdoorsy readers may have noted that Saturday was National Hunting & Fishing Day. Next year, it may be even easier to hunt on federally-held public land.

On August 16, President George Bush issued an executive order entitled Facilitation of Hunting Heritage and Wildlife Conservation. In it, he orders all Federal agencies that have a “measurable effect on public land management, outdoor recreation, and wildlife management” realign their land and conservation plans “in a manner that expands and enhances hunting opportunities, including through the use of hunting in wildlife management planning.”

The order explicitly names the Department of the Interior, which is home to the National Park Service. And here’s where the sticking point may come. Except in a handful of its parks, the NPS bans hunting. In those where it does allow it, it’s generally either for very strictly regulated population control or, as in the case of the Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland, because it was written into the original founding legislation.

The executive order does stress that any changes would have to be “consistent with agency missions.” But it undoubtedly sends a message that pristine wilderness, a true refuge for wildlife from hunters and trappers, needn’t necessarily be any agency’s sole concern.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Bush, Texas Parks and Wildlife, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, Hunting on Public Land

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