As the comment period closes today on the federal government's plan to
approve new oil drilling threatening Alaska's Teshekpuk Lake, large
national waterfowl groups asked Interior Secretary Dick Kempthorne to
uphold existing safeguards for the area's wetlands. Representing over a
million hunters, the groups' protest comes in the middle of another
hunting season marked by extremely tight bag limits for waterfowl
threatened by loss of habitat from proposed drilling. State-level
sporting groups from 13 different states, and a few smaller local clubs,
also called on the government to continue the decades-long protection of
the Teshekpuk Lake area.

"The Teshekpuk Lake region is America's waterfowl nursery. It's an
irreplaceable wetland complex, vital to hundreds of thousands of
migrating birds that summer there. The numbers of geese and ducks using
the region around Teshekpuk Lake are astounding. Oil and gas development
there would be devastating to our migratory bird populations, especially
as numbers of pintails and other waterfowl continue to decline," said
Steve Zack, Conservation Scientist with the Wildlife Conservation
Society, director of wildlife studies from a remote field camp at
Teshekpuk Lake since 2005.

Geese and ducks that depend on the sprawling Teshekpuk wetland complex
provide game for thousands of hunters across the United States, from the
Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast and Pacific Flyway. Scientists and
sporting groups say that the future of waterfowl hunting depends on
protecting important habitat like that found at Teshekpuk Lake.

"Without Teshekpuk Lake and its wetlands, which are the summer home for
ducks and geese that show up in nearly every state in the nation, we can
expect to see shorter waterfowling seasons, lighter bag limits and less
shooting, forever," said John Devney, Senior Vice-President of Delta
Waterfowl, America's oldest waterfowl organization, with over 50
thousand members.

Delta Waterfowl joins Ducks Unlimited (1 million members and
supporters), Washington Brant Foundation, International Wild Waterfowl
Association, and the Izaak Walton League of America (40,000 members and
nearly 300 local chapters nationwide) in their request that Kempthorne
respect the value of hunting and retain the generations of protection
given to the Teshekpuk Lake wetlands.

"Our ability to hunt depends on good habitat. And, for waterfowl
hunters, Teshekpuk Lake and its surrounding wetlands is some of the best
habitat in Alaska," said Devney. "As hunters, we'd rather be out in the
blind than at home writing off letters to the government. But it's
important to help Kempthorne understand the hunting traditions supported
by Teshekpuk Lake. Only he can do the right thing by keeping oil
drilling out of the Teshekpuk Lake wetlands."

Along with the national sporting organizations, state and local-level
sporting groups from FL, IA, OH, TN, PA, WA, WI, WY, MN, SD, MD, SC, AZ,
OR, and LA asked Kempthorne to keep Teshekpuk Lake protected.

"Sporting groups around the country are taking note as we head into the
2008 election cycle. As Ducks Unlimited stated in their letter to
Secretary Kempthorne, oil drilling equals 'potentially irreversible and
catastrophic impacts to important waterfowl populations and habitat' at
Teshekpuk Lake. We need some real leadership from our government in
sustaining our hunting traditions," said Scott Hed, Outreach Director of
Sportsman's Alliance for Alaska.

"Sacrificing Teshekpuk Lake to oil rigs and bulldozers makes no sense.
By developing our nation's clean energy resources, we can provide cheap,
clean and safe sources of power without sacrificing the wildlife and
natural resources that help define our state and nation," Devney added.

"Balance is sorely needed when it comes to the oil drilling that
threatens the Teshekpuk Lake region, the great waterfowl nursery of
North America. We are pressing for full protection of this region, while
recognizing the need to responsibly develop elsewhere on Alaska's
western arctic coastal plain," said Zack.

For years, experts have recognized the importance of Teshekpuk Lake.
Four presidents, of both parties, have protected this area. Now, the
rules that kept this habitat healthy are being gutted as the area is
opened to leasing. Birds banded at Teshekpuk Lake showed up along the
Great Lakes, Mississippi River, the Pacific Coast, plains states,
Eastern seaboard and the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, not to
mention Siberia and the Gulf of Mexico. Teshekpuk Lake supports up to
37,000 molting brant - 30 percent of all brant in the Pacific flyway, up
to 35,000 greater white-fronted geese - 6% of the mid-continent breeding
population (Central and Mississippi flyways), tens of thousands of
Canada and snow geese and tundra swans (Central and Atlantic flyways),
and tens of thousands of long-tailed ducks and pintails (which are in

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's most recent data, over 2.3
million people hunt migratory birds like geese and ducks each year. An
additional 47.8 million people watch or photograph America's wild birds.

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