Sportsmen will be able to access a wealth of new hunting and fishing opportunities on national wildlife refuges across the country as a result of actions undertaken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which today announced the finalization of a rule outlining the changes.
The new regulations, which expand hunting and angling on 21 national wildlife refuges in 15 states, were welcomed by Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. BHA’s work includes increasing public access to places to hunt and fish, particularly on publicly owned lands.
“America’s great traditions of hunting, fishing and public lands would be in tatters if not for places like our national wildlife refuges – and the unwavering commitment of the Fish and Wildlife Service and its director, Dan Ashe, to advancing the public good,” said BHA President and CEO Land Tawney. “I’ve hunted waterfowl my entire life on refuges that have been funded almost exclusively by sportsmen’s dollars, and I, along with millions of other sportsmen, will continue to return to these places that provide the access and opportunity that are critical to our continued ability to go afield.”
Hunting and angling on national wildlife refuges play a critical role in America’s 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.
“The Tualatin River Refuge is located only a few miles from Portland, the largest city in Oregon, and provides a welcome and very necessary escape for urban residents of our state,” said Ed Putnam, chairman of BHA’s Oregon chapter.
The Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge provides habitat for nearly 200 species of birds, more than 50 species of mammals, 25 species of reptiles and amphibians, and numerous insects, fish and plants. The USFWS has proposed opening the refuge to youth migratory bird hunts.
“Kids need opportunities to go outdoors, get their hands dirty and experience nature,” said Putnam. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and in particular Director Ashe deserve our thanks – not just for sustaining our ability to hunt, fish and enjoy the outdoors but also for expanding these opportunities, especially for kids.”
“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.”
The final rule will go into effect upon publication in the Federal Register tomorrow.
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