A Gift for Hunters and Fishermen: More Potential Hunting and Fishing

If you were Secretary of the Interior, what would you give sportsmen to help celebrate Saturday's National Hunting and Fishing Day (besides guaranteed limits for life)?

How about a way to help solve the nagging problem of lack of access to public hunting and fishing places by expanding such opportunities on National Wildlife Refuges?

That's exactly what Secretary Sally Jewell did this week by announcing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed starting hunting programs on six refuges, expanding hunting and fishing programs on 20 refuges, and modifying regulations on more than 75 other refuges and wetlands management districts in the system.

Sportsmen have always been a part of the wildlife refuge system history. Teddy Roosevelt, arguably the most famous hunter in American history, started the system in 1903. And hunters have been key funding sources for the program, their purchases of more than $730 million worth of duck stamps paying for purchase of more than five million acres of refuge lands across the nation.

Fishing and hunting have always been management tools in the system, a tradition that was reaffirmed in the 1997 National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, which specifically allows these sports where they are compatible with the purposes a refuge was created. Today 329 refuges have hunting programs, while 271 allow fishing.

This proposal will be out for public comment until Oct. 24. Sportsmen should send their written thoughts to the Service using the following methods:

• Email: Federal eRulemaking Portal Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS-HQ-NWRS-2013-0074]

• U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS-HQ-NWRS-2013-0074]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

If the proposal passes public muster, sportsmen can look forward to the following opportunities:

New York Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge: Open to big game hunting. Oregon Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge: Open to migratory bird hunting. Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge: Open to migratory bird hunting. Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge: Open to migratory bird hunting. Pennsylvania Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge: Open to migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting. Wyoming Cokeville Meadows National Wildlife Refuge: Open to migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting. Meanwhile, under the proposal, the Service would expand hunting and sport fishing on the following refuges: California Colusa National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory bird and upland game hunting. Florida Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge: Add big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory bird hunting. St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. Idaho Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge: Expand upland game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory bird hunting and big game hunting. Illinois Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. Indiana Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area: Expand migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. Iowa Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing. Maine Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. Missouri Mingo National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. New Mexico San Andres National Wildlife Refuge: Expand big game hunting. Oregon Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, OR and WA: Expand migratory bird hunting. The refuge is also already open to sport fishing. Julia Butler Hanson Refuge for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer, OR and WA: Expand migratory bird hunting. The refuge is already open to big game hunting. Malheur National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory bird hunting and sport fishing. The refuge is already open to upland game hunting and big game hunting. Texas Aransas National Wildlife Refuge: Add migratory bird hunting. The refuge is already open to big game hunting. Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge: Expand hunting for migratory birds, upland game and big game. Vermont Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. Washington Willapa National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory bird hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is already open to upland game hunting.