Idaho BHA comments on expansion of access to National Wildlife Refuges

The Idaho Chapter recently sent a letter (included below) to the US Fish and Wildlife Service applauding the expansion of access to wildlife refuges in Idaho as per Secretarial Order 3347 and the 2019 John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. This April, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt proposed the largest expansion in history of hunting and fishing access on national wildlife refuge lands across 2.3 million acres at 97 national wildlife refuges and 9 national fish hatcheries. Since the creation of the first National Wildlife Refuge by President Theodore Roosevelt at Pelican Island, Florida in 1903, hunters and anglers have been the leading voice for conserving these critical landscapes. Sportsmen-generated funds from the sale of Duck Stamps continue to enhance and expand our system of refuges. 


Expanded hunting and fishing opportunities currently proposed in Idaho include:

Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge: Open snipe hunting for the first time and expand sport fishing to new acres.

Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge: Open crow, bobcat and deer hunting on new acres and expand existing migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting to new acres, and expand method of take for elk hunting to align with state regulations. 

Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge: Expand sport fishing to new acres.


There are 6 National Wildlife Refuges in Idaho. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has also recommended additional enhancements to access and opportunity at Camas, Bear Lake and Gray's Lake NWF for the inclusion in current or future plans for expansion. The Idaho chapter echoed the importance and timely implementation of these additional recommendations.  The inclusion of these lands for public use will help contribute to the state's $7.8 billion outdoor recreation economy that creates 78,000 jobs and $447 million in tax revenue. Improving access and opportunity also opens the door for recruitment of new hunters and anglers, therefore adding to funding mechanisms for wildlife management and conservation.


You can review the proposed regulations and submit a comment here. 

ID BHA Letter:

Robyn Thorson

Regional Director, Pacific Region 1

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

911 NE 11th Avenue

Portland, Oregon 97232

RE: Idaho implementation of the 2019 John D. Dingell Conservation, Management and Recreation Act


On behalf of the Idaho chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, I appreciate the opportunity to provide comments on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) efforts to improve public access for hunting, fishing on Idaho’s National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) as per the 2019 John D. Dingell Conservation, Management and Recreation Act.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) is the voice for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife. We seek to ensure North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting through education and work on behalf of fish, wildlife and wild places. With more than 250,000 members and supporters and chapters in 45 states, two Canadian provinces and one territory, BHA is the fastest growing hunting and fishing organization in the country. In Idaho, over 2,100 public land and water advocates have officially joined our ranks as dues paying members.

Idaho BHA commends the efforts to implement Secretarial Order 3347 laid out in the 2020-2021 Station Specific Hunting and Fishing Proposed rule for National Wildlife Refuges, including the expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities on the Minidoka NWR, Kootenai NWR and Deer Flat NWA. We would also recommend the USFWS consider all of the proposals for expanded hunting, fishing and trapping opportunities that IDFG proposed in their March 11, 2020 letter in current and future implementation actions related to S.O. 3347. These additional recommendations improve public access, addresses wildlife conflicts with adjacent private landowners, increase opportunities for sportsmen and allow the department to effectively manage wildlife populations and achieve department goals.

Access, or lack thereof, is the single biggest impediment to hunter recruitment and retention in this country. Increasing the available area for the public to access for hunting, fishing, trapping and shooting sports is critical to perpetuating our outdoor heritage for future generations, as well as maintaining and expanding our funding mechanisms for conservation.






Ace Hess

High Divide and Idaho Chapter Coordinator

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers



About Idaho BHA

The Idaho chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is a group united by a passion to protect and conserve public land forests, mountains, prairies, streams and lakes that support our hunting and angling traditions.

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