Why it matters: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is the top federal agency dedicated to conserving our nation’s fish, wildlife, and their associated habitats. FWS supports more than 2.4 million hunting related visits and 7.3 million fishing visits annually, making the agency one of the most important federal land management agencies for sportsmen and women. As such, it is critical for FWS to follow substantiated science when making fish and wildlife management decisions, including decisions surrounding method of take. The proposal to phase out the use of traditional ammo and tackle as contained in the 2023 – 2024 Hunt Fish Rule does not appear to follow science-based decision making that is the foundation of the agency.
- On Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced the proposed 2023 – 2024 Hunt Fish Rule, an annual effort that is intended to increase access opportunities for sportsmen and women within the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS).
- While the proposed rule does expand hunting and fishing opportunities within three NWRS units, the proposal sets in motion the intent of FWS to phase out the use of traditional ammunition and fishing tackle within eight units.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) strongly opposes arbitrary, baseless efforts to restrict the use of traditional ammunition and tackle without clear, validated science justifying such restrictions as those contained in the Hunt Fish Rule.
Last Thursday, June 22, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the proposed 2023 – 2024 Hunt Fish Rule, which expands access across 3 National Wildlife Refuge System units but seeks to prohibit the use of lead ammo and tackle within eight units to be effective in 2026.
CSF is thankful for efforts by FWS to increase access for hunters and anglers through 48 new hunting opportunities that cover 3,000 acres of land and water within three NWRS units. Lack of access is often cited as the number one reason why sportsmen and women no longer participate in our time-honored traditions of hunting and fishing, and CSF fully supports any effort to expand access for sportsmen women.
CSF is disappointed to see the Hunt Fish Rule proposes to prohibit the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle, a highly popular and accessible method of take for sportsmen and women. 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. To date, CSF and partners have not received clear, definitive science that warrants restrictions within the eight identified refuges. 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.
CSF thanks FWS for expanding access across three units that will result in 3,000 acres being opened to 48 distinct hunting opportunities, but we are disappointed to see the intention to phase out traditional ammo and tackle on eight refuges. CSF will continue to work to maintain the use of this highly popular method of take to support sportsmen and women across the country.