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. As such, it is critical for FWS to follow substantiated science when making fish and wildlife management decisions, including decisions surrounding method of take. Unfortunately, the final Hunt Fish Rule does not appear to follow the science that is the foundation of the agency. On the positive side, 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. The expansion of access across 38,000 acres bolsters opportunities for America’s sportsmen and women.
- On Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a final rule regarding the 2022 – 2023 Hunt Rule, an annual effort to increase access opportunities for sportsmen and women within the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS).
- While the final rule increases access for sportsmen and women across 18 national wildlife refuges spanning nearly 38,000 acres, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is disappointed to see that the final rule contain restrictions on the use of traditional ammunition and tackle that will take effect by the fall of 2026.
- Following the proposal of this rule in June, CSF led a letter to the FWS to offer our support for efforts to increase hunting and fishing within the NWRS, but also to express our opposition to arbitrary restrictions on the use of lead ammunition and tackle that lack scientific justification.
On Thursday, September 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the finalization of the 2022 – 2023 Hunt Fish Rule, offering a mixed bag for sportsmen and women.
CSF is thankful for efforts by FWS to increase access for hunters and anglers across 38,000 acres of land and water within the National Wildlife Refuge System. 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 appreciates FWS for continuing its efforts to expand opportunities for hunters and anglers.
However, we are concerned to see the inclusion of future restrictions on the use of lead ammunition and tackle within the NWRS without a sound, science-based justification. Specifically, the final rule does not include any new opportunities that would allow the use of lead ammo and tackle beyond 2026. Additionally, the final rule announced that 8 different NWRS units are analyzing the phasing out of lead ammunition and tackle by the fall of 2026.
Following the proposal of this rule in June, CSF developed a comment letter to thank FWS for expanding accessible acreage within the NWRS. However, in the letter, CSF and 30 of the nation’s leading sporting-conservation organizations expressed concerns regarding seemingly arbitrary efforts to limit the use of traditional ammunition and tackle.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation applauds FWS for expanding access within the NWRS, however, we are disappointed to see the inclusion of efforts to arbitrarily restrict long-standing methods of take within the National Wildlife Refuge System.
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?