This week's proposal would up the number of units open for hunting in the system from 377 to 382. Hunting is now allowed on 377 national wildlife refuges. At the Leadville National Fish Hatchery southwest of Denver, hunting of duck, grouse, elk and mule deer would be allowed for the first time.
Outdoor recreation advocates praised a Trump administration proposal Wednesday to expand hunting and fishing on 1.4 million acres in national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries, but conservationists fear it could weaken wildlife protections in some areas. "Another reality is that the complicity of our regulations also is a frustration for folks beginning to fish or hunt or continuing to", said Bernhardt.
Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing sport fishing to new areas.
The department also plans to update hunting and fishing regulations at refuges across the U.S.to more closely match state regulations, U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement on Wednesday.
According to USFWS surveys and data, some 101 million Americans, or 40 percent of the United States' population, pursued wildlife-related recreation to the tune of some $156 billion in 2016.
The expansion is the largest proposed by the administration to date, Bernhardt said. "This is an important step in that direction".
Two years ago, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke set this change into motion when he said his department would undergo reviews on how to increase hunting opportunities on public lands.
In response to comments like these, FWS said federal law allows hunting on a refuge "after rigorous examination of the available information" by the refuge manager, including the development of a conservation plan. The Service intends to finalize the proposed changes in time for the upcoming 2019-2020 hunting seasons. "These refuges and hatcheries provide incredible opportunities for sportsmen and women and their families across the country to pass on a fishing and hunting heritage to future generations and connect with wildlife". The refuge system is home to more than 8,000 animal and marine life species.
The Refuge System is an unparalleled network of 567 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts.
Delevan National Wildlife Refuge: Open to wild turkey hunting for the first time on 1,696 acres already open to other hunting. Hunting, within specified limits, is now permitted on 340 wildlife refuges and 37 wetland management districts.
The move was applauded by groups that support hunting, including the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation and Delta Waterfowl, which said it provided the Fish and Wildlife Service with a list of refuges where it believed hunting could be opened or expanded. Numerous current regs on the books are long obsolete, points out USFWS, such as a mandate for medical access waiver permits on a refuge in Virginia although local officials have not issued any such waivers for more than 30 years, and have no plans to issue any in the future.