USFWS To Add Hunting At 16 National Wildlife Refuges

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a proposal to open one new refuge to hunting and to expand hunting opportunities at 16 national wildlife refuges in 14 states. If approved, the proposal would provide additional public hunting opportunities in fulfillment of the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997.

“The National Wildlife Refuge System offers some of the best public hunting and fishing around, helping to connect generations of Americans with this great outdoor tradition,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Our goal is to increase hunting opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds, wherever these opportunities are compatible with refuge purposes.”

Notice of the proposal was published in the Federal Register on July 11, 2012; the public has until August 10, 2012, to comment on the proposed changes. To comment on the proposed hunting rule changes, please click here or visit

The proposal would open the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, MI, to migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting for the first time since its establishment in 2001. The refuge is closed to sport fishing.

The proposal calls for closure of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, HI, 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 proposal also calls for closure of the Santee National Wildlife Refuge, SC, to migratory bird hunting. The refuge is open to sport fishing.

All but two of the refuges in the proposal are open to sport fishing and would remain so.

Other proposed changes are:

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.

The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the Service, is the nation’s premier system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife and plants.