America's Wildlife Conservation Partners' letter to New River Gorge National River superintendent

Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies * Campfire Club of America
Catch-A-Dream Foundation * Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
Dallas Safari Club * Ducks Unlimited * International Hunter Education Association
National Rifle Association * National Shooting Sports Foundation
National Trappers Association * National Wild Turkey Federation
North American Bear Foundation * Pheasants Forever * Pope & Young Club
Quail Forever * Quail Unlimited * Quality Deer Management Association
Ruffed Grouse Society * Safari Club International * Texas Wildlife Association
The Wildlife Society * U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance * Wildlife Forever

                                                                                               December 13, 2007

Mr. Don Striker, Superintendent
New River Gorge National River
P.O. Box 246
Glen Jean, WV 25846
RE: New River Gorge National River Management Plan

Dear Mr. Striker:

The organizations listed above, members of the America’s Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP), which represent millions of Americans that actively support fish and wildlife conservation, thank you for the opportunity to present our comments regarding the New River Gorge National River (NRGNR) General Management Plan. We recognize that the National Park Service is still in the early stages of its planning process and has not definitively adopted any alternatives, including one "proposed" or "preferred" by the NPS. We understand that to develop alternatives for overall management, the NPS must consider and analyze a variety of options related to hunting, including one that maintains the status quo. We also understand that you want to analyze an option that enhances hunting opportunities and one that terminates them. We strongly advocate that the NPS reject any option that diminishes or restricts hunting within the boundaries of the NRGNR and that the NPS adopt a preferred alternative that includes the expansion of hunting opportunities.

We stand united in requesting that the National Park Service continue hunting on the NRGNR, as introduced in the 1982 authorizing language, consistent with the scope and breadth of hunting as it has continued to this day. A recent report evaluating hunting on the NRGNR by Virginia Tech concluded that hunting is a highly popular activity and has caused no adverse effects on NRGNR flora and fauna. In fact, both the Virginia Tech report and federal and state wildlife managers recognize hunting of white-tailed deer and other species as an essential management tool for reducing overpopulations and enhancing an area’s plant and animal diversity. For all these reasons and more, hunting continues to be a legitimate and highly desired activity by area residents and visitors alike, and should be continued or enhanced.

Furthermore, in the August, 2007 Executive Order, "Facilitation of Hunting Heritage and Wildlife Conservation," President Bush directed Federal agencies that manage public land, outdoor recreation, and wildlife to enhance and expand hunting opportunities and the management of game species and their habitat.

We also want to encourage you to continue to manage the area’s fish, wildlife and plants in consultation and partnership with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. As you have long recognized in this unit, the DNR has statutory authority of such flora and fauna, as well as the authority to establish hunting and fishing seasons. This partnership approach will ensure that fish, wildlife, plants and people are being managed in the most beneficial and scientific manner.

We hope that we can count on your leadership on an issue of great concern to the members of our organizations: the conservation of our nation’s wildlife, their habitat and related recreation. We hope to be included in the NPS’s continuing process to develop a general management plan for the NRGNR. We look forward to working with you and the NPS staff to secure the future of wildlife and outdoor recreation for our families and for future generations by continuing or enhancing recreational hunting on the NRGNR. Thank you for your consideration.

Cc: The Honorable Robert C. Byrd
The Honorable John D. Rockefeller
The Honorable Alan Mollohan
The Honorable Shelley Moore Capito
The Honorable Nick J. Rahall
Curtis Taylor, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources