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: