June 10, 2019

Interior Department Announces Expansion of 1.4 Million Acres for Public Hunting and Fishing

On June 5, the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service submitted a proposed rule to open or expand more than 1.4 million acres of National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) lands and waters to hunting and fishing.

There are more than 560 National Wildlife Refuges nationwide, including more than 360 refuges that are open to hunting, and more than 300 that are open to fishing. The proposed rule, which builds off of the success of Secretarial Order (S.O.) 3347 and 3356, will significantly increase public hunting and fishing opportunities by expanding access across approximately 1,451,131 acres spanning 74 refuges. The proposed rule will also open 15 national fish hatcheries to hunting and/or fishing, and further implement S.O. 3347 and 3356 by revising existing Refuge regulations in all 50 states to make them more consistent with state hunting and fishing regulations.

Prior to the DOI announcement, the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council (HSSCC), which is chaired by Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) President Jeff Crane, submitted a letter to Secretary of the Interior Bernhardt urging DOI to maintain momentum and increase efforts to prioritize public hunting and fishing opportunities that were expanded through S.O. 3347 and 3356.

The HSSCC is a federal advisory council that develops and provides recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior as well as Agriculture to advance hunting and the shooting sports.

 “The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation applauds Secretary Bernhardt for his efforts to expand hunting and fishing opportunities within the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS),” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President Jeff Crane. “This announcement builds off momentum generated over the last few years through Interior Secretarial Orders, and advances recent recommendations submitted by the HSSCC to increase hunter and angler access to federal lands and waters, including the Refuge System.”

CSF will continue to work with Secretary Bernhardt, DOI and the HSSCC to further advance public sporting opportunities on public lands and waters.

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?

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