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 houses 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.
Earlier today, the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized a proposal to open or expand hunting and fishing opportunities across 2.1 million acres of public land and waters. Specifically, this new rule increases access for sportsmen and women on 88 national wildlife refuges and on one national fish hatchery.
The National Wildlife Refuge System annually supports 2.65 million hunting days and 7.95 million fishing days. As priority public uses, expanded hunting and fishing opportunities through this proposal will allow sportsmen and women to continue their conservation legacy through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding and additional sporting-driven programs such as the Federal Duck Stamp, which has helped add more than 6 million acres to the System for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and people.
This announcement marks the largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities in recent history. The Department of the Interior has now increased access to more than 6 million acres of public land and water for hunting and fishing since 2019. As a result of this rule, there are now 434 units in the National Wildlife Refuge System that are open to hunting and 378 units where fishing is permitted.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) applauds the Department of the Interior for this announcement. CSF will continue to coordinate with the Department on future opportunities to enhance access for 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?