WASHINGTON – A decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to expand hunting and angling opportunities on 21 national wildlife refuges across the country drew praise from Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, which works on increasing sportsmen’s access to places to hunt and fish, particularly on publicly owned lands.
USFWS Director Dan Ashe announced the proposal, which was published in the Federal Register today and which would modify existing regulations for more than 100 other refuges and federal wetland management districts. Sportsmen welcomed the good news.
“I’ve hunted waterfowl my entire life on national wildlife refuges that have been funded almost exclusively by sportsmen’s dollars,” said BHA Executive Director Land Tawney. “Refuges are just that: places that provide much-needed solitude and challenge our members crave. Access and opportunity are critical to Americans’ continued ability to enjoy our time-honored traditions of hunting and fishing, and likewise they are central to the mission of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.
Tawney continued, “Our heartfelt thanks go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Director Ashe for having the foresight to understand what will sustain our outdoor heritage in the long term, for having the wisdom to support activities that benefit America’s economy, and for persevering to advance this new rule in a political climate that is challenging at best.”
Hunting and angling on national wildlife refuges play an important role in America’s robust outdoor-reliant economy. Refuges are responsible for $2.4 billion in economic output annually and support more than 35,000 jobs. More than 47 million visitors travel to wildlife refuges every year.
BHA members likewise applauded the USFWS announcement.
“We’re excited to hear of the expanded opportunity for big game hunting and collaboration between the USFWS and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on the 5,350 acres the Sacramento River NWR has open to hunting,” said J.R. Young, treasurer of BHA’s California chapter and a resident of Los Gatos, California. “The Sacramento River is the lifeblood of Northern California’s incredible habitat that supports migrating waterfowl in Pacific Flyway, salmon spawning from the Pacific Ocean and hundreds of other species of fish and wildlife. This expanded opportunity will greatly benefit the public lands hunters and anglers of California.”
“Minnesotans value opportunities to hunt, fish and spend time in the outdoors, and so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to expand hunting on two of the national wildlife refuges located in our state is good news,” said Erik Jensen, co-chair of BHA’s Minnesota chapter and a Minneapolis resident. “The expansion of upland hunting on the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge increases the ability of urban and suburban residents to access time afield, all too valuable during a time when lack of access acts as a deterrent to sportsmen continuing to pursue our passions. Just as important, the Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge provides outstanding wildlife habitat in a part of the state where accessing private lands nearby can be challenging at best. We appreciate the Service’s actions in support of public lands sportsmen – and their help in sustaining Minnesotans’ outdoor traditions.”
More than 560 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts are located in the United States. Hunting and angling play an important role in the management of fish and wildlife populations on many of these properties and provide opportunities for time afield during an era where sportsmen’s access is steadily decreasing. Regulated hunting is permitted on 335 wildlife refuges, and fishing is allowed on 271 refuges.