An article yesterday incorrectly reported the number of national wildlife refuges that the Reagan administration has opened to hunting or in which expanded hunting has been allowed. The correct number is 26.
The Interior Department is seeking comments on a proposal that would allow deer hunters to use flat-bottomed airboats in Florida's Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to allow the first legal deer hunt on the refuge. After a public hearing, the six-day hunt was postponed until this fall. Last week, the agency asked whether it should let hunters use airboats on two of those days.
In a Federal Register notice, Interior said that "since there has been some controversy about possible adverse effects to refuge habitat from airboat access, the service has undertaken to gather all available information relative to the probable effects of airboats on Everglades habitat."
However, the agency also said that the hunt would have "a positive secondary economic effect on small, independently owned sporting goods stores, firearms manufacturers, local gasoline filling stations and providers of meals and overnight accommodations."
Since the start of the Reagan administration, Interior has moved to open 229 of the nation's 417 refuges to hunting and sport fishing.
"We think that from a biological standpoint, the hunt is extremely damaging to the wildlife habitat," said Jim Norton of the Wilderness Society.
Steve Parcells of Defenders of Wildlife said his group will seek a court order barring the use of airboats if Interior issues a final rule allowing them in the hunt.