Interior Secretary Proposes Historic Expansion of Hunting Opportunities

New hunting and fishing opportunities are proposed across 2.3 million acres at 97 national wildlife refuges and nine national fish hatcheries.

Interior Secretary Proposes Historic Expansion of Hunting Opportunities

Predator hunters will benefit from a proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that creates or expands hunting and fishing opportunities on more than 2.3 million acres at 97 national wildlife refuges and nine national fish hatcheries.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced the proposal. It is the largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in history.

Predator hunters will find new or expanded opportunities at different refuges, such as for mountain lions at the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona. Hunters in Georgia will find new opportunities to hunt alligators at Banks Lake and Savannah national wildlife refuges.

A state breakdown lists the refuges and details.

“America’s hunters and anglers now have something significant to look forward to in the fall as we plan to open and expand hunting and fishing opportunities across more acreage nationwide than the entire state of Delaware,” Bernhardt said. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Hunt Fish Chiefs have been instrumental in our effort over the past two years to streamline our regulations and identify new opportunities for sportsmen and women like no other previous administration.”

This proposed rule would create nearly 900 distinct new 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 4 million acres nationwide.

This proposal would bring the number of units in the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System where the public may hunt to 399 and the number where fishing is permitted to 331. In addition, this rule proposes to formally open lands on nine units of the National Fish Hatchery System to hunting or sport fishing.

“On behalf of Safari Club International and our members, thank you President Donald Trump and Secretary David Bernhardt for continuing to prioritize American sportsmen by opening up and expanding opportunities across 2.3 million acres of public lands,” said Laird Hamberlin, CEO of Safari Club International. “Hunting and fishing are an integral part of our nation’s culture, economy and care for the land. Increasing access and opportunities for people to take part in our sporting heritage strengthens broader conservation efforts.”

The proposed rule also continues the effort from the 2019 rule toward revising refuge hunting and fishing regulations so they more closely match state regulations where the refuge is located. This year’s rule also takes a further step in proposing revisions that ensure whenever refuge regulations depart from state regulations, for safety or conservation compatibility reasons, these extra regulations are consistent across all refuges in a given state. The Department worked closely with the states in preparing the proposed rule.

The Service will seek comments from the public on the proposed rule for 60 days, beginning with publication in the Federal Register on April 9, 2020. The notice will be available at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-NWRS-2020-0013, and will include details on how to submit comments.

The Department intends to finalize the proposed changes in time for the upcoming 2020-21 hunting seasons. A complete list of all refuges and hatcheries in the proposal is available in the proposed rule. View an online list and map.

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