Of course, this plan, known as the Arctic Tundra Habitat Emergency Conservation Act, or more commonly the Light Goose Conservation Order (LGCO), faced its share of opposition, evidenced by the two years it took to get approved. It was challenged by the Humane Society and eventually made its way to Congress before being federally mandated in 1999. Batt said the goal of the LGCO was to decrease the light goose population by half in 10 years, thereby decreasing the rate of ecosystem destruction in the process.
This attempt to control the light goose population has a direct impact on some of DU's most significant projects, especially those in regions such as the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, which represents the historic floodplain and valley of the lower Mississippi River, and the Rainwater Basin of Nebraska. Both of these regions are critical for waterfowl habitat. Ninety percent of the mid-continent's white-fronted goose population visits the Rainwater Basin during the months of February, March and April, but due to increased demand for water, wetland degradation from sedimentation and invasive plant species and continued drainage of wetlands, this migration habitat has become increasingly vulnerable.
Hunters making a difference
This is where hunters can step in to save the day. More than a few hunters have been quick to point out the many benefits this overpopulation problem has provided, not the least of which is the chance to "play hero" while getting to hunt after duck season closes. Tyson Keller, an avid light goose hunter, feels that snow goose hunting can be a hunter's most rewarding and exhilarating experience.
"If hunters take some time to prepare for the LGCO, they will not only see amazing sights, they will also do their part in helping reduce an overpopulated flock to promote snow goose health," said Keller. "Snows are hunted from September through May across all latitudes and longitudes of Canada and the United States. Any species that is chased and hunted for that amount of time across a massive flyway range will naturally become very smart and conditioned. Having the opportunity to observe and hunt a species like snows can be a great success or a very humbling experience. The way I look at it, if you can fool a flock of snows, you have accomplished something. Also, having the opportunity to see the massive flocks at peak migration is truly a spectacle and can only be described as amazing.'"
Other hunters have echoed Keller's enthusiasm for taking advantage of the LGCO. Martin Hesby, an Avery pro-staffer in Brooking, S.D., and an avid snow goose hunter since 1987, said the spectacle of snow goose hunting makes it more than worth the extreme effort and planning it often requires.
"Snow goose hunting tests the knowledge and skill of the hunter like no other form of waterfowl hunting I have ever experienced," said Hesby. "This challenge draws me to the bird, and because snow geese are very adaptive and seem to get smarter and smarter every year, a hunter needs to evolve and always be working to stay one step ahead of the game from season to season."