Why it matters: Access is often cited as the number one reason that sportsmen and women no longer participate in hunting and fishing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which manages national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries, annually supports more than 2.5 million hunting days and almost 8 million fishing days, making these lands and waters a critically important place for hunters and anglers.
Recently, CSF submitted a letter to the Department of the Interior in support of their May 4 announcement proposing to open or expand hunting and fishing opportunities across 2.1 million acres spanning over 90 national wildlife refuges and one national fish hatchery.
This announcement continues to build on previous efforts to increase access for sportsmen and women, which to date have collectively resulted in expanding access to over 4 million acres of public lands and waters that are managed by the USFWS. If the May 4th proposal is finalized, the Department of the Interior will have enhanced sporting access on more than 6 million acres since 2019.
In the letter, CSF stated “The National Wildlife Refuge System (System) has been a critical place of recreation for hunters and anglers since its inception in the early 20th century. Nearly 100 years after the inception of the System, the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act of 1997 (Improvement Act) further solidified the connection of hunting and fishing by providing clarity and guidance on how the System should be managed and utilized by and for the public. Specifically, the Improvement Act outlined a total of six ‘wildlife-dependent compatible uses’ for the System, which includes hunting and fishing. By announcing this proposal, the Department of the Interior is not only following the guidance of Congress as outlined in the Improvement Act but is demonstrating its commitment to America’s sportsmen and women.”
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to coordinate with the Department of the Interior on ways to expand access for America’s sportsmen and women.
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?