SERVICE ISSUES
               INTERIM GUIDELINES
               FOR FIELD TRIALS
 
 
 

                                                News Releases Home Page

                                                Search the News Releases
                                                U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Home
 

 
               Contacts

               Chris Tollefson (202) 208-5634

               Georgia Parham (812) 334-4261 x 203

               The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued interim guidelines today that will help
               state wildlife agencies evaluate and oversee field trials on lands acquired, managed
               or developed by states with funds from the Federal Aid in Wildlife and Sport Fish
               Restoration programs. By working with agencies and field trial organizers and
               participants to eliminate the negative impacts of some large field trials, the Service
               expects to improve habitat conditions, while also increasing the quality of hunting,
               angling and other outdoor recreation activities on some of these lands.

               The interim guidance is derived in large part from direction provided by Congress
               last year during passage of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs
               Improvement Act of 2000, which amended the Federal Aid Program's authorizing
               legislation, popularly known as the Pittman-Robertson Act. In committee reports
               on the Act, Congress stated in part that "only field trials that do not adversely affect
               wildlife or wildlife conservation objectives are viewed as an acceptable use of
               Pittman-Robertson acquired lands."

               "Field trials are a popular activity, and have a place on public lands. However, as
               Congress made clear, the Service's obligation is to protect the investment that our
               nation's hunters and anglers have made in wildlife habitat and conservation across
               the nation," said acting Service Director Marshall Jones. "We will continue to work
               with State wildlife agencies and field trial participants to ensure that these activities
               do not degrade habitat or interfere with other wildlife-related recreation."

               Field trials are simulated hunts that are used to train and evaluate various breeds of
               dogs for upland and migratory bird hunting. These trials can involve the use of
               horses and large areas of land require extensive work to prepare and maintain
               courses and trails, and last from a few days to several weeks.

               The interim guidance will serve to help state wildlife agencies assess the impacts of
               field trials and determine whether they should be permitted. After receiving
               stakeholder comments on the interim guidance, the Service will develop and
               incorporate a final set of guidelines into its policy manual within a year. All
               proposed field trial activity must be reviewed by State wildlife agencies and the
               Service for compliance with Federal grant rules and environmental regulations.

               As part of its administration of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration and the
               Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Programs, the Service has the statutory
               responsibility to ensure that lands acquired, developed or managed using program
               funds are used in ways that conform to the intent of the programs as they were
               established by Congress. Land acquired, managed or developed by states using
               Federal Aid funds must be managed for the benefit of fish and wildlife-related
               activities.

               Problems with some large field trials on land acquired, managed or developed with
               Federal Aid funding were identified in several states during audits conducted under
               the National Federal Aid Audit Program. The Service concluded that some field
               trials, particularly those that are conducted on horseback over large areas for an
               extended time, can disrupt hunting on the properties, damage wildlife habitat, and
               interfere with wildlife breeding, feeding and resting.

               In some instances, intensive use of horses contributed to soil erosion and runoff into
               popular fishing spots, degrading aquatic habitat. Mowing of vegetation for field trial
               courses impaired or destroyed habitat in some areas. Audits also found that some
               field trial participants received preferential treatment through exclusive use of
               clubhouse facilities, horse barns, and bird pens. Construction of these facilities on
               land purchased, developed or managed with federal grant funds was not in
               compliance with grant rules and regulations.

               Under the interim guidelines, States, in cooperation with the Service, will be
               responsible for developing their own regulations, policies and site-specific plans for
               permitting field trials.

               The circumstances under which field trials are permitted will be required to be
               amended into existing Federal Aid grant language that governs management of each
               site, and required for all new grant proposals. Other guidance provided by
               Congress:

               Field trials that require significant manipulation of terrain, landscape, or vegetation,
               or intensive site management are generally not appropriate for lands acquired or
               managed with Federal Aid funds.

               Intensive site management in this context would include regular mowing, permanent
               stables, dog kennels, equipment storage areas or other infrastructure onsite, which
               would degrade the value of the land as wildlife habitat.

               Field trials proposed to be conducted during nesting or breeding seasons of the
               wildlife species for which the land was acquired would not be appropriate.

               Field trials which require minimal manipulation of terrain, vegetation, or habitat
               would be appropriate if timed to avoid the breeding and nesting seasons of the
               species for which the land was acquired.

               Proposals for field trials that conflict with hunting seasons or other public uses
               would require case-by-case evaluations and decisions.

               More than 4 million acres of fish and wildlife habitat have been purchased by states
               with Federal Aid funds since the program began in 1937, an area equal to the
               combined size of Connecticut and Rhode Island. Nearly 40 million additional acres
               are managed for fish and wildlife under agreements with private landowners. The
               programs are funded by an excise tax on sporting arms, handguns and ammunition,
               fishing tackle, motor boat fuel and archery equipment.

               Revenues generated by this excise tax are distributed each year by the Service
               through grants to state wildlife agencies for approved wildlife and sport fish
               restoration projects. Apportionments to states are based on the state's land area
               and number of licensed hunters and anglers. Funds are generally used by states to
               purchase land for fish and wildlife management, to fund research programs, and for
               specific fish and wildlife restoration efforts.

               The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for
               conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for
               the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the
               94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than
               535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special
               management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource
               offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal
               wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird
               populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife
               habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation
               efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of
               millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to State fish and
               wildlife agencies.

               - FWS -

               For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page
               at http://www.fws.gov