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Locals Covet Refuges

Wildlife management

Local politics is spilling into Congress, creating what could be a massive attempt to raid the national wildlife refuge system.

Rep. William Brewster, D-Okla., has introduced legislation to give the Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge, created in 1946 as a haven for ducks and other waterfowl, to the state of Oklahoma, along with an appropriation equal to half its annual operating budget.

The reason: Howls from a small group of local “sportsmen,” who do not like new restrictions on trotlines, jug fishing or boating in the refuge’s shallow waters.

The Senate has approved legislation that would eliminate some restrictions on vehicle use in Virginia’s Back Bay refuge. The restrictions were put into place to protect nesting waterfowl.

“You can’t let it get started or there’s no stopping it,” said Lonnie Williamson, executive director of the Wildlife Management Institute, a hunters and conservation group.

“The fishermen, whose fishing was curtailed, are raising hell to their congressman and he’s trying to get them off his back.”

“There are rumblings about other refuges. Quite a number of congressmen are standing in line and if this thing flies, they’re going to recommend a lot more of them” be given away, Williamson said.