Utah Wildlife Board approves changes to 2021 waterfowl hunts, other items
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Utah Wildlife Board approves changes to 2021 waterfowl hunts, other items

Salt Lake City — The Utah Wildlife Board approved a few changes to waterfowl hunting — in connection with a new wildlife-related law that was passed during the 2021 legislative session — as well as a few other items, during Thursday's virtual public meeting.

Waterfowl hunting changes

Waterfowl hunt

The wildlife law, H.B. 295, prohibits commercial hunting guides and outfitters from using DWR-owned waterfowl management areas without a permit. The new law also prohibits the construction of new blinds on waterfowl management areas, and authorized the Utah Wildlife Board to make rules regarding the creation and management of waterfowl management areas.

Using feedback gathered in a public survey, and in order to help reduce crowding on these high-quality hunting areas, the DWR had proposed creating regulations that would not allow commercial guiding on waterfowl management areas. However, after receiving additional feedback gathered from several public meetings, the Utah Wildlife Board voted to allow guiding on waterfowl management areas with a special-use permit. The board also directed the DWR to form a committee to establish criteria for rules and regulations regarding waterfowl guiding in the state.

The Utah Wildlife Board also approved the following proposals:

  • Prohibiting the construction of new permanent blinds on waterfowl management areas
  • Adding Duchesne County to the Uintah County Hunt Area for sandhill crane
  • Defining the use of dogs, shot types (including requiring non-lead ammunition) and firearm use on the Utah Lake Wetland Preserve

Temporary closure for sage-grouse hunting in one hunting area

The board also approved the temporary closure of sage-grouse hunting on the Parker Mountain hunting unit for the 2021 season. The sage-grouse population in that area has experienced six consecutive years of a declining population trend. The population has declined due to extreme drought, which has negatively impacted breeding and critical sage-grouse habitat in the area. Another factor in the population decline was the loss of chicks from drought in 2018 and 2020 and from spring storms in 2019.

The other three sage-grouse hunting areas in the state — the Diamond-Blue Mountain, Rich County and West Box Elder County — have not experienced the same type of population declines and will remain open to hunting in 2021.

Other amendments

During the pandemic, then Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order, authorizing all public comment meetings to be held electronically. The Utah Wildlife Board approved a proposal to allow for flexibility in creating a new protocol for the DWR public meetings, which will allow a hybrid approach of electronic and in-person meetings.

"We saw added flexibility and efficiency from adapting the virtual meeting format last year, but we also recognize the importance of accommodating in-person attendance and comments at our meetings," DWR Assistant Director Ashley Green said. "Combining both of these approaches with all of our public meetings going forward will enable us to accommodate more members of the public."

The board also approved 318 conservation permits, a slight decrease, for the next three-year cycle (2022–2024). Conservation permits are offered to conservation organizations who then auction them at banquets, fundraisers and other events. The conservation groups provide 90% of the money raised from these permit sales toward conservation and research projects like habitat enhancement, wildlife transplants, aerial surveys and deer survival studies. The board also approved five people to continue serving as members of the eight-person Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit Advisory Committee. You can watch the full meeting on the DNR YouTube Channel.

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