The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last month what they’re calling the “largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities to date.”
The proposal would open opportunities at 90 national wildlife refuges and one national fish hatchery spanning 2.1 million acres. In total, the proposed rule would add 939 species and locations to the list of public lands available to hunters and anglers.
“We are committed to ensuring Americans of all backgrounds have access to hunting and fishing and other recreational activities on our public lands,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “Hunters and anglers are some of our most ardent conservationists and they play an important role in ensuring the future of diverse and healthy wildlife populations. Our lands have also provided a much-needed outlet to thousands during the pandemic and we hope these additional opportunities will provide a further connection with nature, recreation and enjoyment.”
Biden’s move is a continuation of the Trump administration’s effort to expand hunting and fishing, and it’s a welcome sign that the new Interior leadership is still committed to that priority. Increasing access to public lands is a “central-component” of the Biden-Harris administration’s approach to conservation, according to a press release announcing the move.
Last year, the Department of the Interior under the Trump administration opened 2.3 million acres to hunting and fishing spanning 97 national wildlife refuges and nine national fish hatcheries, but it only added about 900 new distinct opportunities (defined as one species at one location). While Biden’s expansion covers less land, it opens an additional 39 species and locations across the country.
Several locations will be open to hunting and fishing for the first time. Turkey hunting and sport fishing will be available at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Florida; migratory game bird, upland game and big game hunting will open at the Muleshoe and Neches River National Wildlife Refuges in Texas; and migratory game bird hunting and sport fishing will be available at the Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.
In addition, the new rule would continue the Trump administration’s push to align national refuge hunting and fishing regulations with the regulations of the state where the refuge is located.
The department hopes to finalize the rules in time for the 2021-2022 hunting and fishing season. Concerned citizens can learn more about and comment on each of the proposed expansions by clicking here.