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. If the efforts by the anti-hunting environmental organization are successful, the lawsuit has the potential to reduce access for sportsmen and women on 2.3 million acres of public lands and waters.
On March 11, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation along with 40 of the nation’s leading hunting, fishing, and other leading conservation organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging the Service to maintain hunting and fishing access opportunities on 2.3 million acres of public lands and waters throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System and the National Fish Hatchery System.
The letter urged the Service to oppose the lawsuit filed by an irritant anti-hunting organization who alleges that the 2020 expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities by the Service will harm and reduce endangered species. Specifically, the anti-hunting organization alleges the Service violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act as additional hunting and fishing on Service lands and waters poses a threat to endangered species through potential lead poisoning from ammunition and fishing tackle.
Hunting and fishing are not only time-honored traditions within the National Wildlife Refuge System, but they are also activities that Congress has directed the Service to support throughout history. The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 established a robust management framework for the System and guidance on how refuges should be managed and used by the public. The Improvement Act explicitly lists hunting and fishing as two of the six priority uses for the Refuge System. Without a clear scientific justification, any effort to reduce access that is solely based on disdain for hunting and fishing is not only inconsistent with the historical operations of the Refuge System, but also goes against the intent of Congress through the Improvement Act.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to monitor this situation and will work to ensure that hunting and fishing access is not limited or reduced based on pure hostility towards these time-honored traditions.
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?