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Book Chapter

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Public land management agencies are faced with greater challenges today than ever before in responding to the recreational needs of society. As Will Rogers so aptly stated, "Land, they make so little of it nowadays" (Steinhart 1986). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) also must face these challenges in management of national wildlife refuges (NWRs). There is a growing demand by the American people to utilize and enjoy NWRs in a variety of ways. Managers are faced with the dilemma of determining how much and what kind of management and utilization of natural resources is appropriate without compromising the mandates and integrity of the 434 NWRs they administer (see figure 1). They must accept the fact that, in our complex society with sharply conflicting interests and philosophies, it is impossible to conduct management programs that will be acceptable to all the people all of the time. Hunting on NWRs is a prime example of this conflict.

Since 1960, a number of new refuges have been opened to hunting, and the trend has alarmed some groups. The Humane Society of the United States has charged that FWS is not complying strictly to Congressionally established mandates governing refuges. FWS takes the position that hunting on NWRs is an acceptable, traditional form of wildlife-oriented recreation that can also be used to manage wildlife populations.

This paper describes the historical, legal, social, and biological bases for the FWS position.


Paper presented at the national conference, "Animals and Humans: Ethical Perspectives,'" Moorhead State University, Moorhead, MN, April 21-23, 1986.