Why it matters: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the top federal agency dedicated to conserving our nation’s fish, wildlife, and their associated habitats. The Service also supports more than 2.4 million hunting related visits and 7.3 million fishing visits annually, marking the Service one of the most important federal land management agencies for sportsmen and women. The expansion of access to 54,000 acres bolsters opportunities for America’s sportsmen and women, however, counteracting this expansion is a proposal to limit to use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on certain refuges effective in 2026.
On June 8, through the 2022 – 2023 Hunt Fish Rule, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a proposal to expand hunting and fishing opportunities across 54,000 acres of land and water managed by FWS, a move applauded by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. Unfortunately, the proposal takes a step backwards by seeking to prohibit the use of lead ammo and tackle on nine select refuges to be effective in 2026.
The National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) annually supports roughly 2.5 million hunting days and nearly7.5 million fishing days. As priority public uses, expanding hunting and fishing opportunities across 54,000 acres through this proposal is not only consistent with the intent of Congress and the refuge system itself, but also recognizes the importance of America’s sportsmen and women. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation appreciates the continued commitment by the Biden-Harris Administration to expand hunting and fishing acreage within the NWRS as part of the Hunt Fish Rule effort.
Unfortunately, the 2022 – 2023 Hunt Fish Rule seeks to phase out the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle across nine specific refuges, to be effective in the fall of 2026. While this proposal only phases out lead ammo and tackle for the hunting and fishing opportunities expanded as part of this rule within those nine identified refuges, CSF remains concerned about the potential precedent this may set for future refuge management decisions. CSF maintains that FWS’ decisions to limit the use of lead ammo and fishing tackle should be rooted in definitive science that clearly shows a population level impact on fish and wildlife and should not be based on unfounded conclusions.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation welcomes FWS’ effort to expand hunting and fishing access across 54,000 acres of land and water within the National Wildlife Refuge System. However, we are concerned about the lack of foundational, indisputable science which determines that the use of lead ammo and fishing tackle is causing population level impacts on fish and wildlife within the refuge system.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?