Say it with me: 2.3 million acres. Ahh…that’s nice.
Recently, Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced the biggest increase in hunting and fishing opportunities in American history. The announcement now includes a final rule establishing and expanding hunting and fishing opportunities across more than 2.3 million acres at 147 national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries. They have even opened up migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing at Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge in Florida for the first time!
That’s not all. The rule creates nearly 900 new hunting and fishing opportunities nationwide via the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System and National Fish Hatchery System. Bamforth National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming is now open to upland game and big game hunting for the first time. Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia is seeing the introduction of sport fishing for the first time and the expansion of existing migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting to new acres. In addition, numerous refuges and hatcheries will see expansions to already-existing opportunities.
This isn’t just a win for hunters and anglers; it’s a win for conservation. Although it may seem counterintuitive, allowing a scientifically managed number of animals to be harvested by hunters improves the health of the overall population. Taxes paid by hunters and anglers go directly to support wildlife management and protection of the ecosystem.
“This is a huge win for sportsmen and women,” said Kip Adams, Quality Deer Management Association’s (QDMA) Director of Conservation. “The newly opened acreage is about one and a half times the size of the state of Delaware. That’s a tremendous area for hunters and anglers.”
“We know that one of the barriers to people beginning to hunt or even continuing to hunt is not having access to quality places to go,” said Nick Pinizzotto, President and CEO of the National Deer Alliance (NDA) and QDMA. “This action is another step in the right direction when it comes to providing access for the hunters of today and tomorrow.”
These new additions increase huntable National Wildlife Refuge System units to 430 and fishable units to 360. Additionally, the new rule opens nine National Fish Hatchery System units to hunting or fishing. The rule also seeks to better align federal refuge hunting and fishing regulations with those of the state in which the refuge is situated. For instance, the rule ensures that whenever refuge regulations depart from state regulations, for safety or conservation compatibility reasons, these extra regulations are consistent across all refuges in a given state.
Want to see where the new hunting areas are in your region? Click here! (Warning for mobile users–it’s a .pdf!)
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