FWS Expands Hunting Opportunites on National Wildlife Refuges

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced the opening of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge in Michigan to migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting for the first time, while expanding hunting activities at 16 national wildlife refuges in 14 states.

Hunting opportunities are being expanded on several National Wildlife Refuge sites in the country.

Notice of the 2012-13 Refuge-Specific Hunting and Sport Fishing Regulations was published in the Federal Register on Sept. 11. The rule provides additional public hunting opportunities in fulfillment of the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997.

Notice of the proposed rule change was published in the Federal Register on July 11; public comments were accepted through Aug. 10. Several refuges now will add or expand big game hunting opportunities including those for whitetail deer.

“The National Wildlife Refuge System, one of America’s greatest conservation success stories, is committed to offering quality hunting and fishing programs – for all Americans – wherever they are compatible with refuge purposes,” said Service Director Dan Ashe.

The rule will close Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge in Hawaii to big game hunting. With this change, the refuge will be closed to all hunting activity. The refuge is also closed to sport fishing. The new rule will also close Santee National Wildlife Refuge, S.C., to migratory bird hunting. The refuge is open to sport fishing.

Other changes include:

— Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Mo., expands area for migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.

— Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge, Ind., expands big game hunting area. The refuge is also open to upland game hunting and sport fishing.

— Block Island National Wildlife Refuge, R.I., adds deer to the refuge’s big game hunting program. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.

— Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Ga., adds migratory bird hunting and upland game hunting; expands area for big game hunting and addition of wild turkey to big game hunting program. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.

— Chickasaw National Wildlife Refuge, Tenn., expands area for migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.

— Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, Idaho, expands area for big game hunting. The refuge is also open to migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and sport fishing.

— Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, adds turkey to species for big game hunting. The refuge is also open to migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and sport fishing.

— Saddle Mountain (Hanford Reach) National Wildlife Refuge, Wash., expands area for migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. Adds chukar (a member of the pheasant family) to upland game hunting program. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.

— Julia Butler Hanson Refuge for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer, Ore., expands area for migratory bird hunting. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.

— Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge, Tenn., expands area for migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.

— Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Minn., expands area for migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.

— Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge, R.I., adds deer to species for big game hunting program. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.

— Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Mont., expands area for migratory bird hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.

— Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, La., expands area for migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is open to sport fishing.

— Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, S.C., expands area for big game hunting. Adds woodcock to species for migratory bird hunting. The refuge is also open to upland game hunting and sport fishing.

— William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, Ore., expands area for big game hunting. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.

While definitions of hunting categories vary by refuge and state, migratory bird hunting generally includes ducks and geese. Upland game hunting may cover such animals as game birds, rabbit, squirrel, opossum and coyote. Big game hunting may include such animals as wild turkey, deer and feral hogs.

Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the Service can permit hunting and fishing along with four other types of wildlife-dependent recreational uses where they are compatible with refuge purpose and mission. Hunting, within specified limits, is permitted on more than 300 national wildlife refuges. Fishing is permitted on more than 270 national wildlife refuges. Other wildlife-dependent recreation on national wildlife refuges includes wildlife observation, photography, interpretation and education.

To find hunting programs offered in the National Wildlife Refuge System, visit: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/hunting/

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