Why It Matters: Historically, the Hunt Fish Rule has been an effort to promote access for sportsmen and women. While the most recent proposed Hunt Fish Rule does seek to expand access, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) remains concerned about efforts to restrict the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle in certain National Wildlife Refuge Units across the country. Furthermore, removing Sunday hunting restrictions is critical to providing access parity among public land user groups, and also in the furtherance of hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts.
- For years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has conducted an effort known as the Hunt Fish Rule to improve access for sportsmen and women across the country within the National Wildlife Refuge System.
- CSF has encouraged FWS to maintain access for sportsmen and women not only through physical access, but also method of take, such as lead ammunition and tackle.
- In a surprising move, the Service proposed to forbid hunter access on two National Wildlife Refuges on Sundays despite Sunday hunting restrictions being Blue Laws with no basis in wildlife management. While many states and the U.S. Forest Service have expanded Sunday hunting opportunities in recent years, CSF was disappointed to see the Service’s proposal, which is biased against hunters, that would forbid hunter access to two NWRs on Sundays.
With the proposed 2023 – 2024 Hunt Fish Rule set to be finalized soon, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation remains concerned about certain aspects of the proposal.
Specifically, CSF is disappointed to see the Hunt Fish Rule proposes to prohibit the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle within select NWR’s across the country. Restrictions concerning lead ammunition and fishing tackle need to be supported by science-based data that demonstrates a negative fish and wildlife population impact within a specific unit of land or water. If substantiated scientific data determines a causational relationship between the use of traditional ammunition or fishing tackle and local fish and wildlife population health, states already have the inherent ability and resources necessary to quickly implement regulations on methods of take.
Additionally, CSF urged the Service to withdraw their proposals to prohibit Sunday hunting on two National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) in Virginia. In 2022, the Commonwealth of Virginia repealed the state law prohibiting Sunday hunting on public lands, and the Service opened Sunday hunting on Wallops Island National Wildlife Refuge. This year, however, the Service proposed to prohibit Sunday hunting on the Chincoteague NWR and the Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR. No additional Sunday hunting expansions were proposed. CSF pointed out that the proposed Sunday hunting prohibitions are contrary to President Biden’s directive in Section 214 of Executive Order 14008 to “improve access to recreation” and the goal, agreed to by the DOI as a signatory to the Interagency MOU on Promoting Equitable Access to Nature in Nature-Deprived Communities, to “expand equitable access to… green and blue spaces.”
CSF further encouraged the Service to consider opening Sunday hunting on refuges in all states, including Virginia, where Sunday hunting is not prohibited by state law. While many states have rolled back Sunday hunting prohibitions in recent years, the Service has largely not followed suit. Based on current law in states mostly along the Eastern Seaboard, the Service currently has the ability to allow Sunday hunting on 43 additional refuges (13 in Virginia alone) in nine states which would provide seven-day hunting access on 990,434 acres.