National Wildlife Refuge Week Starts
with Gift to Sportsmen: Expanded Hunting
and Fishing on Refuges from Coast to Coast
Hunters and anglers who rely on public lands to enjoy
enhanced access on 13 refuges in nine states
WASHINGTON – Sportsmen who depend on public access to hunting and fishing have reason to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week, Oct. 9-15, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized a proposal to increase hunting and angling on refuges across the country, said Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.
The USFWS announcement, proposed in July, expands hunting and fishing on 13 national wildlife refuges in nine states.
Sportsmen applauded new opportunities to pursue migratory birds, upland game and big game, as well as a range of fish species under the new regulations, which also modify existing protocol on more than 70 other national wildlife refuges and wetland management districts.
“As sportsmen across the country head afield, Director Ashe’s announcement couldn’t be more timely – or important,” said BHA President and CEO Land Tawney. “More than two thirds of Western hunters rely on public lands for our time afield, and from coast to coast these new opportunities on the National Wildlife Refuge System translate to improved public access, increased economic benefits from hunters and anglers, and the perpetuation of an outdoor heritage enjoyed by Americans for generations. We thank the Service and Director Ashe for taking action in support of public lands sportsmen.”
“For more than a century, hunters and anglers have served as the backbone of the National Wildlife Refuge System and wildlife conservation across America,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “Hundreds of refuges have been created and expanded using funding generated by sportsmen and women, and we continue to rely on their support. We’re proud to support and sustain these traditions by expanding opportunities for hunters and anglers on public lands across the Refuge System.”
Under the new regulations, enhanced access windows for sportsmen and the general public will be implemented at wildlife refuges across the country. BHA members from the Southeast and Texas highlighted opportunities in their regions.
“With most southern states having a much lower percentage of publicly accessible lands than the national average, and with more than a hundred national wildlife refuges located in the southeastern United States, we are thrilled the USFWS is expanding access and opportunities to these special places,” said Jeffrey M. Jones of Huntsville, Alabama, a board member in BHA’s nascent Southeast chapter.
“Many of these refuges are small,” said Jones. “Yet expanding hunting on even the smallest places provides excellent opportunities. My daughter and I love to walk the trails at the Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge in north Alabama. It’s only 260 acres, but we can view the caves while chasing small game – the traditional starting block for almost every hunter. As license purchases in our states continue to decline, it is important to have these places available as another tool for hunter recruitment.”
“This is good news for Texas hunters in general, but especially so for public land hunters,” said Michael Panasci, board member of Texas BHA. “On behalf of the Texas chapter of BHA, I commend the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for moving in the right direction of expanding big game and waterfowl hunting opportunities on publicly owned land.
“This is particularly appreciated in our state, where hunters are heavily restricted on the limited public lands to which we have access,” continued Panasci, who lives in Lubbock. “As Secretary Ashe correctly points out, fish and wildlife in this country belong to all Americans, and these resources should be managed and accessible when on public lands in a manner consistent with the North American Model – not restricted for the benefit of adjacent private landowners and their clients. More hunting access and opportunity translates to more hunters, period.”
BHA members in Michigan and Colorado highlighted the importance of expanded sportsmen’s opportunities at refuges in their states when the USFWS proposal was announced in July.
Sportsmen cite insufficient access as the No. 1 reason for forgoing time afield. National wildlife refuges provide valuable opportunities for time afield during an era where sportsmen’s access is steadily decreasing. Regulated hunting is permitted on 336 wildlife refuges, and fishing is permitted on 275 refuges. They play an important role in managing fish and wildlife populations on many refuges.
Learn about hunting opportunities on national wildlife refuges.
Learn about angling opportunities on national wildlife refuges.