Texans Poised To Loose Coastal Hunting
"The Whooping Crane Briefs"
I'm hesitant to get into these fights, but some you just can't avoid. This is going to be a knock down drag out, so we better get the discussion started right now! Lets hope that the following is just "alarmist ramblings" of a misguided hunting/fishing guide.
Word is spreading that the Feds are moving quietly to develop a "Waterfowl Management Plan" on Matagorda Island. Unfortunately, that plan may translate into "Closing Hunting" on Matagorda Island while potentially reaching into other areas. I'm no expert on the matter and I'm no politician or "insider" in environmental issues as some are. If you don't know the history of Matagorda Island, it has a colorful but somewhat "letigious" past and the Fed has been up to their ears in it since the 1940's.
Loose Understanding Of The History
(I'm not pretending to have all the facts)
The Island was owned by the Hawes family of Port O'Connor during the years leading up to WWII. They ran cattle on it, worked the land, raised their kids, and lived the American dream. As I understand it, the Feds came to the Hawes family at the outset of WWII and more or less issued them an ultimatum that turned into a loose deal for the barrier island in lieu of an eminent domain proceeding. The deal was "let us have the island, we'll pay you something for it's use and development as a military training installation while in conflict, and then we'll give it back when the dust settles. Unfortunately, when the dust settled and WWII came to an end, nobody on the Govt's. side could remember the terms of the deal and that started the Hawes family on a legal battle to regain their ownership that has only recently ended in favor of the Federal Govt.
Tighter Understanding Of Present Day
(The facts as I've experienced them)
In recent years, The State of Texas had a lease on a portion of the Island and managed it as a State WMA. About the time the Ferry burned down in Port O'Connor, The State decided not to renew the lease but still had some management responsibilities there. The State of Texas continued to do some draw hunts and have folks over to the old barracks for camping and fishing, etc. As the State began to deminish their roll on the Island, we began seeing some things that gave us "alarm". One of the first things was the posting of signs at the entrances to back lake bayous that denoted that this is a "National Wildlife Refuge". Life went on as usual until about 2009 when we were hit by the first drought in years. During the Winter of 2009, Whooping Cranes were experiencing higher mortality and a sizeable portion of the flock fell ill and died. Evidently biologists made a huge leap that figured because of the drought the Blue Crab numbers were suffering in the back lakes on the Island and they were starving to death. Without notice or public discussion, Blue Crabbing was outlawed "overnight". I didn't exactly understand the consequence of that action until recently being educated by "those in the know". The impact of that decision shows that the Federal Govt. has 100% control of Matagorda and can take any action without the least amount of consideration for citizens of The State of Texas. That's probably not news to many and is certainly nothing new given the current course of the Federal Govt. I should have seen that one coming!
The Picture Gets Clearer, A Few Days Ago
On Wednesday, January 16th, 2012 I had the pleasure of meeting a local Federal Game Warden at Charlies Bait Camp. Reportedly, the radio tracking collar on a visiting Whooping Crane was giving a "dead signal". In visiting with the agent, he indicated that the Crane had been shot by hunters. I asked if he knew that for a fact and he said "well, the biologists pretty much can tell". At that time, the bird had not even been retrieved. I asked if they needed airboat assistance and they refused my aid. While the "cause of death" had yet to be determined, I was asked to provide any assistance or information related to the "suppossed killing" of this bird. So, if anyone has any idea about the cause of death of a Whooping Crane near the first cove off the ICW before you get to Wigeon Lake, please call the Victoria office of the Dept. of The Interior.
In discussing the matter with the agent, I asked "what's this I hear about changes on The Island"? His first response was "I'm not at liberty to discuss that at this time. I will say, however, that there is an 8 step process that must be completed (by I don't know who) in order to hunt a National Wildlife Refuge. Step 7 answers the question "are there any endangered species that would be affected by hunting activities"? We are currently on Step 7." RED FLAG, WARNING, RED FLAG, WARNING!!!
Clearer & Clearer
Unfortunately, the Federal Govt's. reach doesn't end within the confines of a "National Wildlife Refuge". The Government has the right (in the name of an endangered species) to limit hunting or any other activity it deems harmful within the "range" of that endangered species. If the Federal Govt's. goal is to outlaw hunting on Matagorda Island, it appears that their reach could spread to Shoalwater Bay, Dewberry Bay, Welders Flats, Port O'Connor marshes, and both directions of the barrier Island. Case in point, this entire area has been closed to Sandhill Crane hunting since I can remember. Why? Because immature Whooping Cranes can be mistaken for Sandhill Cranes according to the folks that make the laws. So, this is perfect example of a "broad no hunting area" in the name of the
It's interesting to me that in all my years here on the middle coast, we've never once had a Whooping Crane harmed by the presence of waterfowl hunting, airboats, fisherman, campers, kayakers, etc. However, one drought year can wipe out 25% of the flock due to our inability to regulate our freshwater inflows. So, instead of dealing with the "hard things" like environmental issues dealing with water rights, the Fed is on the move to outlaw or grossly restrict hunting, fishing, use and access. Figures.
The Sun Goes Down
As the sun sets on more of our freedoms, I question what can be done to fight this battle? I certainly don't have the answers. I would however, like to reach out to friends and enemies alike that share a common enjoyment of our bays and back lakes. We will have to put aside petty differences and get to be friends "real quick" if we are going to stand a chance on this one. It may be too late, the game may already be over. Regardless, I extend the right hand of friendship and hope to put past differences aside while welcoming friends and allies to begin forming in the name of preserving the freedoms that we've taken for granted.
There are people well positioned to help us in this fight. Some represent outdoor organizations, news media, etc. The time is now to start reaching out to them and "get in touch with the issue".
Capt. Kris Kelley
"Affordable convenience, personal service, good people and great fishing"
Last edited by Capt. Kris Kelley; 01-22-2012 at 11:02 AM.