SHERWOOD The Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge is seeking public comment on a proposed youth waterfowl hunt program at the refuge.
Starting Sept. 1 and continuing through Sept. 30, the refuge will respond to each comment and question received and evaluate how best to develop the program.
The idea for the program was first revealed when employees were putting together the refuges comprehensive conservation plan, which lays out a 15-year plan for the facility. It was completed in 2013 and includes a section on a possible youth hunting program.
Other area refuges, including the Ridgefield and Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge, all include some type of hunting program.
We are probably one of the only (wildlife refuges) that doesnt allow hunting, Refuge Manager Erin Holmes said. She explains that most wildlife refuges try to include wildlife observation, environmental education, interpretation, photography, fishing and hunting into their park, but up until now the Tualatin River Refuge hasnt included hunting.
The reason behind the push for hunting?
We want to provide a wildlife experience for youth, Holmes said. Our final plan says that we are going to do that.
So far plans have slowly been developing and the hunting programs potential impact on the environment, both in and around the refuge, has been examined.
Holmes and her staff plan to construct four duck blinds, which will each house a maximum of four people, including two hunters. One blind will be ADA accessible.
While hunters will be required to be 17 or younger, an adult will be required to be in the blind to supervise the youth.
In accordance with the refuges responsibility to care for the ecosystem and its inhabitants, hunting will be limited to duck, goose and coot and will only be open certain days. For now, Holmes said, the plan will allow hunters to enjoy the refuge on one Saturday or Sunday every other week during the hunting season.
Refuge employees will also monitor bird numbers throughout the season and enforce bag limits. If numbers are lower then normal for a certain bird population then hunting will cease.
In accordance with normal hunting requirements, hunters will be required to purchase federal and state duck stamps, as well as an Oregon hunting license.
As Holmes explained, hunting on the refuge makes a lot of sense because, Most of the land I manage here at the refuge was bought with duck stamp dollars, she said.
When the refuge begins accepting public comment Sept. 1, refuge employees will respond individually to each comment and then craft the plan based on those comments and conversations with people. If everything goes as planned, hunting will begin in fall 2015.
Were really excited about this, Holmes said. I think its going to be a great opportunity for youth to come learn about waterfowl and hunting, Im just really excited about it.
To get a copy of the plan or the environmental assessment document, visit www.fws.gov/tualatinriver/ or visit the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge administrative building, 19255 S.W. Pacific Highway in Sherwood.