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Historic Expansion of Hunting and Fishing Opportunities on Public Lands

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Historic Expansion of Hunting and Fishing Opportunities on Public Lands

Great news today announcing the single largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) in history, including new hunting and fishing opportunities across 2.3 million acres at 138 national wildlife refuges and nine national fish hatcheries.

From a Press Release form the Department of Interior. Tuesday, August 18, 2020

“The American public needs outdoor recreation opportunities for their physical and mental well-being more than ever,” said Secretary of South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks and President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Kelly Hepler. “By practicing responsible recreation, Americans can enjoy these new opportunities to get outside to enjoy the lands and waters, and fish and wildlife resources, of our great nation.”

SAGINAW, MI – Continuing the Trump Administration’s unprecedented efforts to increase recreational access on public lands, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced today at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge the historic opening and expansion of over 850 hunting and fishing opportunities across more than 2.3 million acres at 147 national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries.

This rule is the single largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in history.

“On the heels of President Trump signing the most significant conservation and recreation funding in US history, providing nearly $20 billion over the next 10 years to fix and conserve the American people’s public lands, the Trump Administration has now made an additional 2.3 million acres accessible to new hunting and fishing opportunities,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “We continue to take significant actions to further conservation initiatives and support sportsmen and women who are America’s true conservationists.”

The final rule opens or expands 859 hunting and fishing opportunities (an opportunity is defined as one species on one field station in one state). On top of last year’s expansion of 1.4 million acres for new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities, this proposal would bring the Trump Administration’s total expansion to over 4 million acres nationwide.

“The Trump Administration and Secretary Bernhardt have made access to public lands for hunting and fishing and other outdoor recreation a priority beginning day one. Hunting and fishing are a part of our American history, and we continue to ensure we provide opportunities for these activities which epitomize our American heritage,” said Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. “Furthermore, we have maintained our commitment to promoting good government by reducing the regulatory burden by working with states to facilitate these outdoor activities.”

This rule increases the number of units in the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System open to public hunting to 430 and those open to fishing to 360. The rule also formally brings the total number of National Fish Hatchery System units open to hunting or sport fishing to 21.

A complete list of all refuges and hatcheries opening or expanding hunting or fishing is available in the final rule. View an online list and map. The final rule includes the following opportunities:

New refuge opportunities include the opening of migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing at Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge in Florida for the first time; the opening of Bamforth National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming to upland game and big game hunting for the first time; and the opening of sport fishing for the first time and the expanding of existing migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting to new acres at Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia.

Expansions of refuge opportunities include existing big game hunting onto new acres at Willapa National Wildlife Refuge in Washington state and Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in Texas; season dates for existing pheasant hunting at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in California; and existing migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing to new acres at Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota.

Changes at hatcheries include the formal opening of lands on Jordan River National Fish Hatchery in Michigan to migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting; the formal opening of lands on Berkshire National Fish Hatchery in Massachusetts to sport fishing; and the formal opening of lands at Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery in Washington State to migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting.

The rule also continues the effort from last year’s rule toward revising refuge hunting and fishing regulations, so they more closely match state regulations where the refuge is located. Whenever refuge regulations depart from state regulations for safety or conservation compatibility reasons, these extra regulations are as consistent as possible across all refuges in a given state. Interior worked closely with the states during the rule making process.  

The final rule will publish in the Federal Register and be available at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-NWRS-2020-0013.

See Also

Click here to view interactive maps of hunting and fishing opportunities, and a web page of all environmental documents related to openings and closings at all 147 affected stations.

BACKGROUND

America’s sportsmen and women generated nearly $1 billion in excise taxes last year, supporting critical state conservation programs. These funds are generated by excise tax collections on hunting, shooting and fishing equipment and boat fuel that is distributed to all 50 states and U.S. territories by the Service.

To date, the Service has distributed more than $22.9 billion in apportionments for state conservation and recreation projects. The recipient state wildlife agencies have matched these funds with approximately $7.6 billion throughout the years, primarily through hunting and fishing license revenues.

In addition to excise taxes collected from these activities, hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic activity in communities across the United States in 2016, according to the most recent National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. More than 101 million Americans — 40 percent of the U.S. population age 16 and older — pursue wildlife-related recreation, including hunting and fishing.

There are 70 national fish hatcheries visited by more than one million people each year. Hatcheries offer opportunities for viewing the operations and learning about fish, as well as activities such as fishing, hunting, hiking, sightseeing, nature study, birdwatching and photography.

The National Wildlife Refuge System is an unparalleled network of 568 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas. The Refuge System receives more than 59 million annual visits. National wildlife refuges provide vital habitat for thousands of species and access to world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and paddling to nature watching, photography and environmental education.

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