Policy Watch

Continuing his efforts to increase access to public lands, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced a proposal on May 21, 2018, to open more than 248,000 acres to new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities at 30 national wildlife refuges. The proposal also outlines expanded hunting and fishing opportunities at 136 national wildlife refuges. If finalized, this would bring the number of units of the National Wildlife Refuge System where the public may fish to 312.

The proposal would not only open more new acres to hunting and fishing than in the past, but takes steps to simplify regulations to more closely match state hunting and fishing regulations. This is a significant proposal as the Refuge System is an unparalleled network of 566 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas and more than 53 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.

Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic activity in communities across the United States in 2016 according to the Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years. More than 101 million Americans – 40 percent of the U.S. population 16 and older – pursue wildlife-related recreation, such as hunting, fishing and birding.

The Service will seek comments from the public on the proposed rule for 30 days, beginning with publication in the Federal Register in coming days. The notice will be available at www.regulations.gov, docket no. FWS-HQ-NWRS-2018-0020, and will include details on how to submit your comments. An interim copy of the proposed rule is now available here.

For more information, please contact Conservation Director, Mike Leonard.