New Hunting Access Proposed on National Wildlife Refuges

News for Immediate Release
June 23, 2023
Contact: Katie McKalip, 406-240-9262, [email protected]

 Public input is requested on 48 expanded opportunities on three refuges, as well as proposal on lead ammunition, tackle

WASHINGTON – Under a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal released yesterday, 48 new hunting opportunities will be implemented on three refuges within the National Wildlife Refuge System: Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama, Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge in Florida and Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota.

As posted to the Federal Register, the draft rule also includes proposals to eliminate lead ammunition and tackle at eight national wildlife refuges. In addition, none of the new hunting opportunities proposed would allow the use of traditional lead ammunition.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers commended the USFWS’s proposed expansion of hunting access, while also offering measured criticism on the proposed prohibitions of lead ammunition and fishing tackle.

“Wildlife refuges in the United States have traditionally served as places to aid in the conservation of fish and wildlife, including via science-based opportunities to hunt and fish,” said John Gale, BHA vice president of policy and government relations. “The proposal from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service underscores this approach. Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s first wildlife refuge, established in 1903 by executive order of then-President Theodore Roosevelt, is administered as part of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge complex. Yesterday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended expanding hunting within that complex. We appreciate the Service’s commitment to seeking out and pursuing new public hunting and fishing opportunities within our refuge system.

“We believe that decisions about the use of non-lead ammunition and fishing tackle should be voluntary and incentive based in the absence of significant fish and wildlife impacts,” Gale continued. “In 2019, BHA’s board of directors passed a policy statement encouraging hunters and anglers to consider the voluntary use of non-lead ammo and tackle. Blanket regulations should be imposed only when circumstances clearly demand them.

“We are encouraged that the USFWS is seeking guidance from the federal Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council, whose members carry significant expertise in this area, to work collaboratively in developing policies and incentives regarding the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on Refuge System lands and waters.”

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, alternative ammunition is, on average, 25 percent more expensive than traditional lead ammunition, and availability is scarce, particularly in rural communities where many refuges are located. Scarcity presents a troubling question of equitable access, and high ammunition costs could price out many hunters who can’t afford nonlead alternatives.

The USFWS seeks comments from the public on the proposed rule for 60 days starting with the rule’s publication today in the Federal Register. The notice is available at www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-NWRS-2023-0038.

Learn more about hunting on national wildlife refuges.
Learn more about fishing on national wildlife refuges

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