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No safe refuge. (Letters From Our Readers).

Thank you for bringing attention to the threats facing our National Wildlife Refuge System ("Seeking Sanctuary," features, March/April 2003). Noticeably, however, trapping was missing from the list of activities that pose a threat to wildlife and contradict the very notion of "refuge."

Thousands of bobcats, otters, beavers and other wild animals are trapped and maimed on refuges each year. Trapping also threatens other animals that refuges are intended to protect, including waterfowl, raptors and threatened and endangered species. The article does mention that sport hunting is allowed on some refuges, but few Americans realize how prevalent this activity is. Today more than 300 of the 540 refuges allow hunting and/or trapping.

Hunting and trapping were prohibited when President Theodore Roosevelt established the first National Wildlife Refuge in 1903. However, Congress and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bowed to pressure from special interests and steadily opened refuges to recreational killing. In 1997, even as they declared, "wildlife comes first in the Refuge System," Congress officially listed hunting as a priority use of the land.

Congress continues to expand hunting and trapping on refuges, though less than four percent of visitors participate in these activities. A 1999 national opinion poll revealed that 78 percent of Americans oppose hunting and trapping on National Wildlife Refuges. Most refuge visitors expect to view wildlife without fear of stepping into a trap, dodging a stray bullet or witnessing the pain and suffering of maimed animals. Hunters and trappers already have access to millions of acres of non-refuge public and private lands. It's time we restored the true meaning of "refuge" to the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Camilla H. Fox, National Campaign Director, Animal Protection Institute Sacramento, CA
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Author:Fox, Camilla H.
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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