From Backcountry Hunters & Anglers:
MISSOULA, Mont. – A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal would expand hunting and fishing opportunities on 19 national wildlife refuges across the United States, potentially impacting 54,000 acres of public lands and waters.
If adopted, the proposal would permit public hunting on 436 national wildlife refuge units and fishing on 378 units. As 101 million citizens – 40% of the American population – engage in outdoor wildlife-related recreation, opening more refuges to hunters, anglers and others is an important step toward ensuring that U.S. public lands remain equal-opportunity places where access to the outdoors is available to all.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers applauded the potential expansion of hunting and fishing access by the USFWS. At the same time, BHA criticized language in the proposal that would prohibit sportsmen and women from using lead ammunition, shells and tackle in the newly opened areas.
“Access, or the lack thereof, is the No. 1 reason cited by hunters for forgoing time afield,” said BHA Conservation Director John Gale. “Without sufficient access, we would be unable to chase upland birds, hunt ducks and other waterfowl, stalk big game and cast a line for fish. All of our traditions rest on our having the places and the opportunities to pursue them. We appreciate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recognition of this one inarguable fact.
“BHA encourages sportsmen and women to consider the voluntary use of non-lead ammunition and fishing tackle,” continued Gale, citing a policy statement passed by the organization’s North American board in 2019. “However, we believe that decisions about their use should be made on a case-by-case basis – and that blanket regulations be imposed only when circumstances clearly demand them. We support our wildlife management professionals and will continue to advocate for the best available science as threats to fish and wildlife are evaluated and management decisions are made.”
The proposed rule change would expand hunting and fishing opportunities on a geographically diverse range of refuges, allowing black bear and turkey hunting while expanding existing white-tailed deer hunting in New York’s Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, enabling turkey hunting in Washington’s Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, and permitting migratory bird hunting in the James River National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.
The USFWS is seeking comments from the public on the proposed rule for 60 days, beginning with its publication in the Federal Register yesterday. The notice is available at www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-NWRS-2022-0055, and will include details on how to submit comments.
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