Discussion set for long-term plans at Quivira wildlife refuge, including hunting

04/29/2013 4:59 PM

04/29/2013 11:34 PM

Discussion and public comments on long-term habitat and wildlife management plans at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge are planned for Tuesday evening at the Great Plains Nature Center.

Mike Oldham, refuge manager, said topics will include proposed tree control plans, changes in public use of wetlands when whooping cranes are present and allowing deer and turkey hunting for the first time at the refuge.

Oldham said the refuge is holding the 5 to 7 p.m. meeting as part of its 15-year conservation plan. The process began about four years ago and has resulted in a 300-plus-page plan for how the refuge should proceed in the future.

“Everything we could think about doing has been put in there,” Oldham said of the detailed plan. “We need to justify everything we do.”

Oldham stressed that even though the plan shows preferred options, plan details can still change.

He said he knows tree removal plans could draw a lot of public interest. For several years, refuge management has been working to restore the area to its native prairie state.

Many visitors have expressed frustration that thousands of trees and bushes have been removed from the area to make room for prairie grasses.

Oldham said the conservation plan will probably see continued tree control but maybe not at current levels.

A long history of closing the entire 20,000-plus-acre refuge to all hunting when endangered whooping cranes are present could end. A current proposal would close areas where the birds are present to all hunting, while leaving other areas open to hunting.

Another possible change could be the opening of areas previously closed to hunting, making up for wide areas closed when whooping cranes are present.

Oldham said any area known to hold a whooping crane would probably be shut down immediately, according to the preferred plan.

The plan is similar to one at the state-owned Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, where only units holding whooping cranes are closed to hunting.

Oldham said the refuge staff would also like the chance to hold limited hunts for deer and turkeys in the area. He said such hunts would probably take more planning and public comment before implementation.

“As for now, we just want to be on the table to allow deer hunting,” said Oldham, noting that population control could eventually help reduce the spread of disease. “Right now we don’t even have any details; those would have to be worked out down the road.”

Such considerations could include refuge deer and turkey population densities, public safety and having a minimal impact on wildlife watching within the refuge. He predicted any limited deer hunting could be several seasons away.

Oldham said other parts of the long-term plan could be implemented later this year, pending federal approval.

Other topics within the long-term plan, and possibly up for discussion on Tuesday, include water quality and quantity for the refuge’s wetlands, prohibiting the collection of shed deer antlers and ways to increase public use and wildlife compatibility.

A similar public meeting will be held Wednesday at the Front Door Community Center in Great Bend.

Comments can also be submitted at www.fws.gov/refuge/quivira.

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