Proposal announced: More access to hunt, fish on wildlife refuges

By: 
Staff Writer

With the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge as a backdrop, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt Wednesday announced a proposal to expand hunting and fishing opportunities in federal wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries.
The proposal would increase hunting and fishing access across more than 1.4 million acres of public land in 74 national wildlife refuges and 15 national fish hatcheries.
In Ohio, the plan would expand sport fishing to new areas at the Ottawa and Cedar Point wildlife refuges.
“Hunting and fishing are more than just traditional pastimes as they are also vital to the conservation of our lands and waters, our outdoor recreation economy, and our American way of life. These refuges and hatcheries provide incredible opportunities for sportsmen and women and their families across the country to pass on fishing and hunting to future generations and connect with wildlife,” Secretary Bernhardt said.
The proposal outlines a revision of refuge-specific hunting and fishing regulations in all 50 states to more closely match state regulations, he said.
In Indiana, the proposal would expand existing migratory game bird, upland game and big game hunting on the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge by 330 acres.
Michigan is not on the list of stations opening or expanding.
Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic activity in communities across the United States in 2016, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
The Service will seek comments from the public on the proposed rule for 45 days, beginning with publication in the Federal Register in coming days. The notice will be available at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-NWRS-2019-0040, and will include details on how to submit comments.
The Service intends to finalize the proposed changes in time for the upcoming 2019-2020 hunting seasons.
A complete list of all refuges and hatcheries in the proposal is available in the proposed rule and online.
Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the Service permits hunting and fishing along with recreational activities such as wildlife photography, environmental education and wildlife observation when they are compatible with a refuge’s purpose and mission.
Hunting, within specified limits, is currently permitted on 340 wildlife refuges and 37 wetland management districts. Fishing is currently permitted on 278 wildlife refuges and 34 wetland management districts.

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