On May 4th, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal for new or expanded hunting and sport fishing opportunities for game species across 2.1 million acres at 90 national wildlife refuges and on the lands of one national fish hatchery. See the BHA press release Here.
The proposed rule is the largest in recent history and comes on the heels of the 1.4 million acres of public land opened for hunting and fishing by the Trump administration.
What do these proposals mean for NJ? A lot! Below is a summary of proposed changes on four refuges spread across the state.
• Cape May National Wildlife Refuge: Open coyote, fox, groundhog, grouse, pheasant, and crow hunting; expand existing deer, turkey, rabbit, squirrel, duck, light goose, dark goose, woodcock, snipe, coot, gallinule, and rail hunting; and both expand sport fishing to new waters and extend sport fishing hours.
• Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge: Open turkey, coyote, fox, and goose hunting, which opens migratory bird and upland game hunting for the first time, and expand existing white-tailed deer hunting.
• Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge: Open turkey, grouse, pheasant, coyote, fox, rabbit, groundhog, squirrel, snipe, rail, gallinule, and coot hunting on acres already open to other hunting, which opens upland game hunting for the first time, and expand existing deer hunting and sport fishing.
• Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing bear, dear, turkey, coyote, fox, raccoon, rabbit/hare, opossum, squirrel, woodchuck, pheasant, grouse, crow, rail, gallinule, woodcock, coot, duck, sea duck, dark goose, light goose, and snipe hunting on new acres.
The last couple years have seen some monstrous wins for wildlife and outdoor recreation. It is refreshing to see government, regardless of party affiliation, recognize the importance outdoor recreation has on the mental health of its citizenry and the enormous economic windfalls generated by hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits.
But don’t sit back and assume we will see these changes in the next regulation publication. This is a proposal, not a rule. There is currently an open comment period and the Fish and Wildlife Service needs to hear from you. If you recreate on any of the above mentioned lands, or any New Jersey National Wildlife Refuges, and can relate a story about how they are important to you, please do so.
The USFWS is seeking public comments on the proposed rule for 60 days, beginning May 4, 2021. Click Here to comment through BHA Action Alert system. Be sure to customize your letter as agencies give weigh to unique responses.
The Service intends to finalize the changes in time for the 2021-2022 hunting seasons.
Learn more about hunting on national wildlife refuges.
Learn more about fishing on national wildlife refuges.
As we have proven over the last couple years, we can make our voices heard. Let’s do it again.
The Board of Directors
New Jersey Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers