Wildlife refuge policies are for the birds, environmentalists say

The way the federal government manages the National Wildlife Refuge system is, in a sense, discriminatory. Not against people, against wildlife. That is the argument of environmental groups that this week took issue with the way the US Fish and Wildlife Service manages the nation's 450 refuge areas.

A study by the service out this week recommends continuing the current refuge system management policy.

But environmentalists object to the study, saying current refuge management favors the preservation of game species, even though such species may not constitute the majority of the wildlife population found on a refuge.

``We must put the needs of wildlife first on our refuges,'' says M.Rupert Cutler, president of Defenders of Wildlife.

In the case of waterfowl, over 90 percent of the bird populations nesting in refuge areas are nongame birds. About 7 percent are available to hunters. Still, the group complains, Fish and Wildlife Service policy puts the interest of the minority ahead of the majority.

The agency has ``no clear or stated plan for nongame species,'' says Kathy Tollerton of Defenders.

Environmental groups have offered advice to the service over the last two years, but Bill Reffalt of the Wilderness Society says, ``Much of what we and other environmental organizations had said is being ignored. The document is verification of that.''

In addition, Ms. Tollerton says, studies show that nearly 80 percent of visitors to refuges come for ``non-consumptive'' purposes - including birdwatching, photography, and wildlife appreciation. Visitors seeking game amount to just over 20 percent of all visitors.

Environmentalists also urge wildlife managers to curtail the killing of predators, except as a last resort in the protection of endangered species.

The Fish and Wildlife Service plans January meetings in 10 cities to hear public comments about management alternatives. Hunters arrested for foul play

A three year investigation by undercover federal agents has turned up more than 1,000 violations of waterfowl-hunting laws among commercial hunting operators in Texas.

Twenty-three people were arrested this week and another 50 indicted on felony charges. Over 130 other people in six states face misdemeanor charges for federal hunting law-violations in Texas.

The arrests and indictments come at a time when waterfowl populations are at or near record lows, after this year's drought and the loss of nesting habitat.

Duck populations ``cannot long withstand additional losses from illegal harvest,'' said Frank Dunkle, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service in announcing the results of the investigation.

As part of the investigation, officials said, undercover Fish and Wildlife Service agents booked hunts with suspect guides, paying from $65 to $500 a day for hunting on private and public lands on the Texas coast. The investigation centered on guides who were believed to be openly encouraging clients to kill waterfowl illegally.

The alleged violations involved many species of ducks and in several instances, raptors, herons, and other migratory non-game birds, officials said.

Superpower warming

Leading scientists in the United States and the Soviet Union have formed a panel to study global environmental concerns.

The Committee on Global Ecology, formed by the US National Academy of Sciences and the USSR Academy of Sciences, is expected to study threats to the global environment with an eye toward developing policy recommendations for both academies. The committee will work to intensify research activities in both countries and stimulate scientific activities elsewhere in other countries.

The panel will address ``the need for greater attention to scientific considerations in establishing national and international environmental policies,'' according to a statement by the two academies. The committee will meet for the first time in Moscow in the spring of 1989.

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