In a continuing effort to increase access to public lands for recreational opportunities, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the opening of 251,000 acres to new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities at 30 national wildlife refuges within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System.
The number of refuges where the public may hunt has been increased to 377 and the number where fishing is allowed is 312.
“American sportsmen and women contribute over a billion dollars a year to fund conservation. Without hunters and anglers, we wouldn't be able to conserve wildlife and habitat; and, without access to our public lands like National Wildlife Refuges, many hunters would have nowhere to go,” said Secretary Zinke in a Sept. 7 press release.
“The last thing I want to see is hunting to become an elite sport, rather than a tradition passed on from generation to generation. Today's announcement protects critical conservation funding, and ensures sportsmen have access to public lands for generations to come,” he added.
According to the FWS National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife- Associated Recreation, hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion to the American economy in 2016. The survey reported that 40 percent of the U.S. population aged 16 and over engage in wildlife-related recreation.
“Hunting and fishing are family activities that pass down from generation to generation. National wildlife refuges provide all Americans with places to hunt, fish, observe the natural world firsthand and experience the great outdoors,” said Cynthia Martinez, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System. “We are pleased to be able to offer hunting and fishing opportunities and other recreational activities where they are compatible with national wildlife refuge management goals.”
The final regulations follow a public comment period. SCI commented in support of the expansion and urged members to comment in support of increasing hunting opportunities in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
In addition to opening more acres to hunting and fishing in the National Wildlife Refuge System, regulations have been simplified to more closely match state regulations.
The changes will be implemented in time for the 2018-2019 hunting seasons.
Refuges slated for an expansion of hunting and/or fishing activities can be found here.