10 National Wildlife Refuges Could See Expanded Hunting Opportunities

Hunting and fishing opportunities may be expanded on 10 national wildlife refuges thanks to a proposal for opening more public land for recreational and sporting use. (PHOTO: USFWS)

Hunters, anglers and outdoors enthusiasts have millions of acres throughout the United States to enjoy thanks to the National Wildlife Refuge System, and more opportunities may be on the way.

More than 50 million people visit refuges each year. They may be taking the kids to a visitor’s center for an interpretive event or just to walk on paths in the woods, out on a birding trip with a group, or hunting during the set seasons. Refuge lands are available in tracts large and small near large cities and rural areas.

These public lands, and others, are among our country’s greatest assets. More hunting and fishing opportunities could be on the way thanks to a proposal by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. Ten refuges may have expanded opportunities.

Here’s the press release from the USFWS about the proposal:

In his latest effort to increase access to hunting and fishing on public lands and waters, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced a proposal to open or expand opportunities at 10 national wildlife refuges. If finalized, this would bring the number of refuges where the public may hunt up to 373, and up to 312 where fishing would be permitted.

“I grew up in the mountains of northwest Montana, where I spent my time hunting and fishing on our shared public lands. I was lucky to take my boys out on the same land that my dad and granddad took me,” Zinke said. “As the steward of our public lands, one of my top priorities is to open access wherever possible for hunting and fishing so that more families have the opportunity to pass down the heritage. The last thing I want to see is hunting and fishing become elite sports. These ten refuges will provide incredible opportunities for sportsmen and anglers across the country to access the land and connect with the wildlife.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages hunting and fishing programs to ensure sustainable wildlife populations while also offering other traditional wildlife-dependent recreation on public lands, such as wildlife watching and photography. The unparalleled network of 566 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts means that there is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas.

“With Secretary Zinke’s leadership, the team at the Fish and Wildlife Service is happy to expand hunting and fishing opportunities where they are compatible with wildlife management goals,” *said USFWS Acting Director Greg Sheehan*. “Sportsmen and anglers play a huge role in the conservation of wildlife and their habitat, so it only makes sense that refuges provide opportunities for folks to get outside to hunt and fish. Refuges provide all Americans with places to hunt, fish, observe the natural world firsthand and experience the great outdoors.”

Whitetail deer are a common sight on many national wildlife refuges. (Photo: Greg Thompson/USFWS)

Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $144.7 billion in economic activity across the United States according to the USFWS National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years. More than 90 million Americans, or 41 percent of the United States’ population 16 and older, pursue wildlife-related recreation.

*Hunting and/or fishing will expand or be opened on the following refuges:*

Georgia and South Carolina
Savannah River National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory game bird hunting,
upland game and big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory
game bird hunting, upland game and big game hunting and sport fishing.

Indiana
Patoka River National Wildlife RefugeExpand migratory game bird
hunting, upland game and big game hunting and sport fishing. The refuge is
already open to migratory game bird hunting, upland game and big game
hunting and sport fishing.

Minnesota
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife RefugeExpand migratory game bird
hunting, upland game and big game hunting. The refuge is already open to
migratory game bird hunting, upland game and big game hunting and sport
fishing.

North Dakota
Des Lacs National Wildlife RefugeOpen moose hunting for the first
time. The refuge is already open to upland game and other big game hunting.

Upper Souris National Wildlife RefugeOpen moose and turkey hunting
for the first time. Expand upland game and big game hunting. The refuge is
already open to upland game hunting, other big game hunting and sport
fishing.

Oklahoma
Sequoyah National Wildlife RefugeExpand upland game and big game
hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, upland
game and big game hunting and sport fishing.

Oregon
Baskett Slough National Wildlife RefugeExpand migratory game bird
hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting.

Siletz Bay National Wildlife RefugeOpen sport fishing for the first
time. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting.

Wisconsin
Horicon National Wildlife Refuge
Expand migratory game bird hunting and upland game and big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, upland game and big game hunting and sport
fishing.

Fox River National Wildlife Refuge: Expand big game hunting. The refuge already is open to big game hunting.

The USFWS is seeking comments from the public for 30 days regarding information pertaining to the proposed rule. For additional information, go to www.regulations.gov, docket no. FWS-HQ-NWRS-2017-0005. The proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register on August 10, 2017. Comments must be received by September 8, 2017.

More than 50 million Americans visit refuges every year. National wildlife refuges provide vital habitat for thousands of species and access to world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and boating to nature watching, photography and environmental education. In doing so, they support regional economies to the tune of $2.4 billion dollars per year and support more than 35,000 jobs.

 
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