- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Whether to hunt, fish or simply watch wildlife, Americans everywhere are invited to visit and celebrate their wildlife refuges during National Wildlife Refuge Week from Oct.10 to Oct.16.

Thanks to the work done by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) biologists on the national refuges, bald eagles, whooping cranes and California condors are three of the endangered and threatened species that have returned from the brink of extinction.

“Wildlife refuges are critically important to the conservation of fish and wildlife, whether one is thinking of ducks and geese or the recovery of the bald eagle and the California condor,” said USFWS director Steve Williams. “There is no better place to reconnect with both wildlife and the family than on a wildlife refuge.”

So make a day or a weekend of it. The system, established in 1903, has 544 national refuges, more than 3,000 waterfowl productions areas and spans around 100million acres. It provides for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals and 250 reptile and amphibian species.

For Washingtonians and suburbanites, the Mason Neck NWR in Northern Virginia’s Prince William County beckons. So does Blackwater NWR in Dorchester County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, as well as the Chincoteague NWR on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. There are others that can make for a fine day trip. On the Web, go to refuges.fws.gov/ generalInterest/NWRSweek2004 and see what pops up.

Modified snakehead regulations — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) proposed new regulations to restrict the possession of snakehead fish. The regulations require the approval of the General Assembly’s Legislative Review Committee.

The DNR withdrew the previously proposed snakehead regulations, which called for the prohibition of the possession of all species of live snakehead fish in the state. Now, the modified regulations will prohibit the live possession of only two species of snakehead fish: the Northern snakehead (Channa argus) and the blotched snakehead (Channa maculata). The Northern and blotched snakehead fish are both temperate species whose natural range suggests they pose a long-term threat to our ecosystem and warrant stringent regulation.

The federal government declared snakehead fishes injurious to the wildlife resources of the United States in October 2002. This action prohibited the importation or interstate transport of all live snakehead fish without a permit. Maryland’s proposal will complement federal rule by prohibiting the importation and transportation of any live fish or viable eggs of snakehead fishes of the family Channidae in the state.

On Nov. 10 at 6 p.m., a public hearing will be held at the DNR C-1 Conference Room, Tawes State Office Building, 580 Taylor Avenue, Annapolis. Comments may be submitted at the hearing, by fax at 410/260-8279, or via a form off the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries.

A run on elk licenses — The Pennsylvania Game Commission awarded elk licenses to only 40 hunters in a recent public drawing. There were 22,777 applications eligible for the drawing. Thirty-four elk licenses were awarded to Pennsylvanians and six to nonresident hunters. Those selected to receive licenses will be mailed a confirmation letter this week.

Pennsylvania has the beginnings of a sizable elk herd in its north-central counties, but the game commission is treading lightly in the awarding of shooting permits for the huge animals — a move that is widely supported by hunting groups.

Safari Club launches TV show — The Safari Club International has announced it will begin airing a hunting adventure program on the Outdoor Life Network (OLN) in late 2005. The series will focus on trophy hunting.

“We want this to be the best show of its kind,” said SCI Marketing Director Steve Lamboy. “For three decades, SCI has actively promoted hunting and the outdoors lifestyle, a fact that made this program the first ever approved out of the box by OLN.”

The yet untitled series will be hosted by wildlife television producer Mike Rogers. Viewers will be seeing hunting adventures across the African plains, through the Alaskan Peninsula, up the Canadian Rockies, high above the Spanish countryside and many other exotic and far-flung locations, says SCI.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail:gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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