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Setting regulations for waterfowl - management and status

How waterfowl regulations are set

Migratory game bird management in the US is a cooperative effort of state and federal governments. Migratory bird treaties with Canada and Mexico govern the management of migratory birds in the US, distinguishing those species that can be hunted from those that can't and establishing limits on hunting-season dates and season lengths. Authority lies with the federal governments in the respective countries. For waterfowl management, the US and Canada are divided into four flyways; the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific (MI resides within the Mississippi flyway). In the US, the Flyway Councils, consisting of representatives from state and provincial game-management agencies, recommend regulations to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for waterfowl and for most migratory, shore, and upland game birds.

The Councils are advised by flyway technical committees consisting of state and provincial biologists. These technical committees evaluate species and population status, harvest, and hunter-participation data during the development of the Council recommendations. The FWS evaluates the Council recommendations, considering species status and biology, cumulative effects of regulations, and existing regulatory policy, and develops final regulations. (Content taken from

Once final federal regulations are known, Michigan DNR (MDNR) analyzes population and migration data and hunter opinions, and meets with the Citizens Waterfowl Advisory Committee (CWAC). MDNR uses the input from the CWAC and hunters across the state to develop recommendations for waterfowl hunting seasons that are then presented to the Natural Resources Commission (NRC). The NRC then makes the final decisions for waterfowl hunting regulations in MI.

Waterfowl monitoring

Population surveys and monitoring programs are critical parts of successful waterfowl management in North America. Survey efforts are cooperative in nature, and rely on partnerships between federal, state, and provincial agencies, as well as private organizations and hunters throughout the continent. Results from these surveys are crucial inputs for many waterfowl population models, and are used to help guide biologists in setting and evaluating harvest management and habitat management programs.

The success of these monitoring efforts—and ultimately the success of waterfowl management throughout North America – is dependent upon cooperation at all levels among the agencies and organizations that are charged with managing this important wildlife resource—and all hunters who go afield during waterfowl season.

The Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey is the most extensive and most important of North America's waterfowl population surveys. This survey is a cooperative effort of the FWS, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and state, provincial, and tribal agencies. It currently covers more than 2.1 million square miles of the northern US and Canada, and includes most of the primary duck nesting areas in North America. MI has been participating in this survey annually since 1991, and uses the information collected to estimate breeding waterfowl populations and wetland abundance.

Habitat conditions play a very important role in annual and long-term changes in duck populations. In addition to counting ducks and geese during the breeding waterfowl survey, aerial survey crews also count wetlands and assess habitat conditions over the key breeding areas in North America.

Banded ducks and geese are highly prized by hunters, but bands play an important role in waterfowl management as well. When hunters harvest a banded bird and report it, biologists can determine valuable information about movement patterns, harvest, and survival rates. MDNR bands thousands of ducks and geese each year to assist in this effort.

Harvest surveys help waterfowl managers understand how many ducks and geese are being killed by hunters each year—and when and where they are being taken. This information, which is provided by hunters, is important for setting season lengths and bag limits that match the current size of waterfowl populations. This helps to ensure that our waterfowl resources—and the hunting tradition—will be around for future generations to enjoy. (Content taken from