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21
Wildlife refuges may soon allow hunting
By Jon Brodkin / Daily News Staff
Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Assabet River and Great Meadows national wildlife refuges may allow hunting beginning next year under a new proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agency is seeking public comments on its plan to open parts of the refuges to shotgun and archery hunting, as well as fishing. Wildlife officials expect a mixed reaction to their proposal.

"There are definitely those within the hunting and fishing constituency that have been looking forward to this for quite some time," said Michael Dixon, visitor services manager for the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Dixon said he thinks certain hunters will be disappointed by limitations the plan places on hunting, while some people will object to any amount of hunting due to safety concerns.

Neither refuge currently allows hunting, Dixon said. The plan would open less than half of the refuge lands up to hunting and in certain areas only archery would be allowed. Hunting with guns would be limited to shotguns to prevent longer-range weapons from accidentally harming people, Dixon said.

"The (shotgun) shot is not going to travel as far as a rifle bullet," he said.

Under the plan, the Assabet River refuge in Sudbury, Hudson, Maynard and Stow would be open for hunting of woodcock, ruffed grouse, cottontail rabbit, gray squirrel, white-tailed deer and turkey. The proposed hunting areas are mostly north of Hudson Road.

The Great Meadows refuge in Sudbury, Wayland, Concord and several other towns would be open for hunting of white-tailed deer and waterfowl. Proposed hunting spots include areas between routes 27 and 20 in Sudbury and Wayland and between Shermans Bridge Road in Wayland and Plymouth Road in Sudbury.

The plan allows fishing for the first time in the Assabet refuge, which became part of the national refuge system about five years ago, Dixon said. Great Meadows already allows fishing but would have fishing areas expanded, he said.

The proposed hunting and fishing rules are an outgrowth of the 1997 National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, which says wildlife-dependent recreation should be encouraged when compatible with refuges, Dixon said.

Wildlife officials want to open the refuges to hunting by this fall, but Dixon said it probably will not happen until next year because of the lengthy rule-making process, which includes a public comment period.

Public comments are due by Aug. 5. The draft rule and refuge maps can be found at assabetriver.fws.gov and greatmeadows.fws.gov.

Comments can be made online at www.regulations.gov; by mail to Chief, Division of Conservation Planning and Policy, National Wildlife Refuge System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 670, Arlington, VA 22203; or by e-mail at refugesystempolicycomments@fws.gov.

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