Continuing the Trump Administrations efforts to increase recreational access to public lands, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced today at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge the historic opening and expansion of over 850 hunting and fishing opportunities across more than 2.3 million acres at 147 national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries. This rule is the single largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) in history.
“On the heels of President Trump signing the most significant conservation and recreation funding in US history, providing nearly $20 billion over the next 10 years to fix and conserve the American people’s public lands, the Trump Administration has now made an additional 2.3 million acres accessible to new hunting and fishing opportunities,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “We continue to take significant actions to further conservation initiatives and support sportsmen and women who are America’s true conservationists.”
The final rule opens or expands 859 hunting and fishing opportunities (an opportunity is defined as one species on one field station in one state). On top of last year’s expansion of 1.4 million acres for new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities, this proposal would bring the Trump Administration’s total expansion to over 4 million acres nationwide.
“The Trump Administration and Secretary Bernhardt have made access to public lands for hunting and fishing and other outdoor recreation a priority beginning day one. Hunting and fishing are a part of our American history, and we continue to ensure we provide opportunities for these activities which epitomize our American heritage,” said Service director Aurelia Skipwith. “Furthermore, we have maintained our commitment to promoting good government by reducing the regulatory burden by working with states to facilitate these outdoor activities.”
This rule increases the number of units in the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System open to public hunting to 430 and those open to fishing to 360. The rule also formally brings the total number of National Fish Hatchery System units open to hunting or sport fishing to 21.
“No one in modern history has done more than the Trump Administration to provide America’s sportsmen and women with greater opportunities to enjoy the outdoors,” said the National Rifle Association’s Director of the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum Erica Tergeson. “This rule is just another example of the commonsense actions that can make hunting and fishing more accessible to all Americans. Secretary Bernhardt and Director Skipwith continue to show their dedication to hunters and wildlife conservation.”
New refuge opportunities include the opening of migratory-bird hunting, upland-game hunting, big-game hunting and sport fishing at Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge in Florida for the first time; the opening of Bamforth National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming to upland game and big game hunting for the first time; and the opening of sport fishing for the first time and the expanding of existing migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting to new acres at Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia.
Expansions of refuge opportunities include existing big-game hunting onto new acres at Willapa National Wildlife Refuge in Washington state and Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in Texas; season dates for existing pheasant hunting at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in California; and existing migratory-bird hunting, upland-game hunting, big-game hunting and sport fishing to new acres at Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota.
Changes at hatcheries include the formal opening of lands on Jordan River National Fish Hatchery in Michigan to migratory bird, upland-game and big-game hunting; the formal opening of lands on Berkshire National Fish Hatchery in Massachusetts to sport fishing; and the formal opening of lands at Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery in Washington State to migratory bird, upland-game and big-game hunting.
The rule also continues the effort from last year’s rule toward revising refuge hunting and fishing regulations, so they more closely match state regulations where the refuge is located. Whenever refuge regulations depart from state regulations for safety or conservation compatibility reasons, these extra regulations are as consistent as possible across all refuges in a given state. Interior worked closely with the states during the rule making process.