The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued proposed rules to open more than 248,000 acres in the national wildlife refuge system to new and expanded hunting and fishing opportunities.
The FWS proposes to open three new refuges to hunting and increase hunting activities at 26 refuges.
If finalized, the number of units open to hunting in the National Wildlife Refuge System would increase to 377 and the number of units allowing fishing would increase to 322.
“As stewards of our public lands, Interior is committed to opening access wherever possible for hunting and fishing so that more families have the opportunity to pass down this American heritage,” Secretary Zinke stated. “These 30 refuges will provide incredible opportunities for American sportsmen and women across the country to access the land and connect with wildlife.”
Safari Club International has pursued expanded hunting opportunities on national wildlife refuges for a long time.
SCI participated as a Defendant-Intervenor in the almost decade-long litigation concerning the FWS’ opening of hunting opportunities on System lands. With SCI’s input, a federal district court upheld the FWS’ analysis of the impacts of hunting on more than 70 refuges.
In the past 15 years, SCI has submitted comments to the FWS supporting hunting opportunities on more than 100 National Wildlife Refuges.
The current proposal expands hunting and fishing opportunities throughout the country and seeks to simplify the regulations to match state hunting and fishing regulations more closely.
Several elected officials support the proposed expansion of hunting opportunities:
"Ensuring public lands are open for multiple uses supports local economies and provides important opportunities for recreation. Further, this proposal means that families and individuals across our nation will be better able to participate in our nation's tradition of hunting and fishing.” Senator John Hoeven (R-ND)
"The Department of the Interior’s latest decision to expand acreage and access for hunting and fishing on wildlife refuges was the right move. Secretary Zinke’s decision will help our economy grow and enable those who hunt and fish to spend more time catching game and less time caught in red tape.” Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT)
“The decision to expand access to public lands by opening more than 248,000 acres across the nation to hunting and fishing will provide new economic opportunities for local communities as well as open up new areas for anglers and hunters,” Congressman Kevin Cramer (R-ND)
The changes would be implemented prior to upcoming 2018-2019 hunting seasons.
SCI strongly supports the move by the FWS to increase hunting opportunities in the National Wildlife Refuge System and better match federal and state hunting regulations.
SCI urges America’s hunters to comment on the proposed regulations.