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DEC invites hunter input on fall 2014 waterfowl seasons

by jmaloni

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Tue, Mar 25th 2014 03:25 pm

Task forces to help set season dates for waterfowl hunting in New York

Through Gov. Andrew Cuomo's "NY's Open for Fishing & Hunting" initiative, hunters are invited to submit recommendations to regional waterfowl hunter task forces for the dates of the fall 2014 duck hunting seasons by April 4, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens announced Tuesday. DEC will evaluate the task force recommendations in setting waterfowl seasons, which must comply with federal rules.

"DEC encourages public input and feedback to help in many aspects of wildlife management, and that includes determining the waterfowl hunting season dates that are most advantageous for sportsmen and women," Martens said.

New York is divided into five waterfowl hunting zones: western, southeastern, northeastern, Lake Champlain and Long Island. DEC recently appointed task forces for each zone (except Lake Champlain) to solicit recommendations for the fall 2014 hunting seasons, including opening and closing dates, split seasons and a special hunting weekend for junior hunters (hunters ages 12-15). Each task force includes representatives from the New York State Conservation Council, established waterfowl hunting organizations and individual waterfowl hunters who provide input from diverse points of view.

Waterfowl seasons in the Lake Champlain zone will continue to be set by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Management Board, with input from DEC and waterfowl hunters in New York and Vermont. Although there is no formal task force for this zone, hunters can send their suggestions to any DEC season-setting team member.

The recommended dates must be within federal guidelines established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For fall 2014, DEC expects the USFWS to allow a 60-day duck season, split into no more than two segments per zone, opening no earlier than Sept. 27, and closing no later than Jan. 25, 2015.

Waterfowl hunters can participate in the season-setting process by providing duck season suggestions to any task force member on or before April 4. Names and contact information for all task force members are listed in alphabetical order on DEC's website: www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/42364.html.

Comments can be provided to DEC's Bureau of Wildlife by mail, telephone or email, with email being the preferred method at [email protected]. The task forces will meet in April, and DEC plans to announce tentative duck hunting season dates in June.

Input on hunting seasons for other migratory game birds, including Canada geese, snow geese, brant and woodcock, may also be submitted to any member of DEC's season-setting team (see list on the DEC website: www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/42364.html#Team). However, due to greater uncertainty about federal regulations for those species, decisions and tentative dates will probably not be known until summer.

The governor's "NY Open for Fishing and Hunting" initiative is an effort to improve recreational activities for sportsmen and sportswomen and to boost tourism opportunities throughout the state. This initiative includes the streamlining of fishing and hunting licensing and reducing license fees, improved access for fishing at various sites across the state, and increasing hunting opportunities in various regions. This year, Cuomo unveiled the state "Adventure License," which allows outdoor enthusiasts, boaters, anglers and hunters to consolidate their recreation licenses and benefits onto their New York state driver's license; and the state "Adventure License Plates," featuring nine plate designs available for free to those buying new lifetime hunting, fishing or park licenses in 2014. 

In support of this initiative, this year Cuomo has proposed creating 50 new land access projects to connect hunters, anglers, bird watchers and others who enjoy the outdoors to more than 380,000 acres of existing state and easement lands that have gone untapped until now. These 50 new access projects include building new boat launches, installing new hunting blinds and building new trails and parking areas. In addition, the governor's 2014-15 budget proposes to include $4 million to repair the state's fish hatcheries; limit the liability of landowners who allow recreational activities on their properties, which could open up vast, untapped resources for additional hunting, fishing and many other recreational pursuits; and allow crossbow hunting once again in New York.

Descriptions of New York's waterfowl hunting zones can be found on the DEC website (www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/28497.html) and are listed in DEC's waterfowl hunting seasons and regulations brochure. The final waterfowl hunting season dates will be posted on the DEC website and announced by news release in late August.

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