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SCI Defends Historic Opening of Hunting and Fishing on National Wildlife Refuges

On March 7, 2022, Safari Club International, with its partners at the National Rifle Association of America, Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, moved to defend the opening of new hunting and fishing opportunities on almost 100 National Wildlife Refuges around the country.

The Center seeks to overturn a 2020 rule published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which opened new opportunities on 2.3 million acres of refuges and national fish hatcheries.  At the time, this was the largest expansion of hunting and fishing access on public lands that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had ever proposed.  SCI and its partners recognize the weakness in the Center’s lawsuit and the importance of maintaining hunting and fishing access on these public lands.

Hunting and fishing have been essential to the development, expansion, and management of the National Wildlife Refuge System.  For this reason, the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, the law governing these public lands, requires that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prioritize the expansion of hunting and fishing on refuges.  That priority also makes economic sense.  In 2021, the sale of hunting and fishing equipment and firearms generated a record $1.5 billion in funding for wildlife and habitat conservation.  Those monies are distributed to State fish and wildlife agencies to ensure the continued protection of refuge lands and conservation of the wildlife which enjoy this habitat.

Hunters were instrumental in creating the National Wildlife Refuge System.  Congress recognized this contribution in prioritizing hunting on refuge lands.  The plaintiff’s lawsuit is baseless—and SCI argued this in a motion to dismiss filed with our intervention.  But even worse, the suit ignores history, the very clear direction of Congress, and the critical funding that hunting provides for the benefit of wildlife and habitat.

SCI has challenged the Biden Administration to preserve access to public lands as part of our “No-Net-Loss” campaign.  Defending this lawsuit against the Center’s attack is a first step to maintaining access to public lands, and to ensuring that hunters and anglers continue to play their conservation role.

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