Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall, who is the nation's top administrator of the sport of hunting, was faced last week with one of the most unfortunate dilemmas in recent conservation history.
Three years of harsh, consuming drought have left duck-breeding grounds in Canada in their worst condition in 30 years. This, combined with the unrelenting encroachment by civilization on waterland from lake to puddle and added hunting pressure in the last decade, cut duck populations to new lows in 1960. Informed that the 1961 duck population is lower still, Secretary Udall had to decide whether to reduce bag limits for the coming season or to close the season completely.
His politic decision was to lower the limit once again. Under the new regulations states located in the Atlantic, Central and Mississippi fly ways can have either very short 1961 seasons with bag limits of three a day or slightly longer seasons with a daily kill of two. So serious is the situation in these areas that goose seasons are longer than duck seasons, a development that would have seemed preposterous only 13 years ago, when duck-bag limits on the Atlantic coast were four times as high as goose limits.
The new limits will be accepted with resignation by hunters, though many of them feel the sport has been reduced to near absurdity. Most duck hunting is expensive and requires considerable trouble, travel and equipment, yet a day's shooting can now end before the hunter is seated in his blind. It is as if baseball were suddenly made a one-inning game.
Many hunters would have settled for closing the season completely and hoping for a better tomorrow. But this would have been an audacious move, outraging those who prefer very little hunting to none at all. It also would have cost the $5 million that hunters spend on federal duck stamps, money that goes to finance the purchase of land for waterfowl breeding areas.
Udall chose to lower the limit. In acting as he did, he behaved more like a canny politician than a bold New Frontiersman. Here's hoping he was right.
NOTE TO URBAN PLANNERS
Stavros Niarchos, the Greek shipping millionaire, has struck a blow for the commuter. He lives on the island of Spetsopoula, which is 40 miles by sea and land from his office in Piraeus. Niarchos has sweetened at least the ocean part of this long commute by buying a 102-foot cabin cruiser that goes 62 miles an hour, faster than any other yacht its size in the world. The boat has three 3,500-hp gas-turbine engines, a crew of 11 and air conditioning that works. At top speed the trip to the mainland should take about 35 minutes, as compared to 64 minutes from Westport into New York on the New Haven RR. Furthermore, the boat cost about half a million dollars. Now, if a few more people would show this kind of initiative perhaps the whole commuting problem could be solved without bleeding millions from the taxpayers to rescue bumbling railroads.
GOOD SELLING JOB
The American Football league, which does not begin its second season for two more weeks, drew its biggest crowd last Saturday evening when 73,916 people went out to Municipal Stadium to see the New York Titans meet the Boston Patriots in an exhibition game.