Expanding Public Land Hunting Access in the Hoosier State
By Rob Seilheimer
Photo by Adam Perrry
The Department of the Interior looks to keep its promise to expand hunting and fishing access on our public lands. According to a Department of the Interior press release, “U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced … a historic proposal for new and expanded hunting and fishing opportunities across more than 2.3 million acres at 97 national wildlife refuges and 9 national fish hatcheries. This proposed rule is the single largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in history.”
What does this mean for Hoosiers?
U.S. Fish and Wildlife lands, including National Wildlife Refuges, have been open to the public for hunting and fishing since the early 1900s. In Indiana, parts of Big Oaks, Patoka River, and Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuges already offer regulated hunting and fishing opportunities. This proposal would expand hunting access on two of Indiana’s National Wildlife Refuges. At Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Indiana, access would increase on 599 newly acquired acres, providing upland, waterfowl, and big game hunting opportunities. On Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in southcentral Indiana, migratory bird hunting would open on 747 acres.
This proposal would be a win for all public landowners, and could go a long way toward breaking the access barrier that many hunters face in Indiana and across the country. The proposed expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities would still be subject to scientifically-based wildlife management practices, with harvesting of wildlife on refuges carefully regulated to ensure equilibrium between population levels and wildlife habitat. As hunters, expanded access gives us the continuing opportunity to support conservation with our hunting dollars. For example, for every Federal Duck Stamp sold, ninety-eight cents of every dollar goes directly back into acquiring wildlife habitat and easements that support the National Wildlife Refuge system.
The Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are accepting public comments until June 8th. If enacted, the proposal would go into effect later this fall. Let’s do our part, speak up, and help move this proposal toward approval. Take action and voice your support for the proposal here.