The U.S. Department of the Interior announced a proposal last week that will open up land owned by the federal government in 37 states for hunting and fishing — beginning with the approaching season.
According to the department, the new rules will “expand the acreage, species or season dates at 15 fish hatcheries and 74 national wildlife refuges” that fall under the Interior Department’s jurisdiction.
Hunters and Fisherman are ecstatic. As John Devney with Delta Waterfowl points out:
“Duck hunters have been leaders in investing in the National Wildlife Refuge System, so the expanded hunting access is well-deserved.”
Animal rights activists aren’t happy at all. E Mechler, who didn’t say what group he was affiliated with, wrote to tell the department:
“We looked up the word refuge: a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble. Now if you and your family need a refuge we assume you would not want to be the target of gunfire. The same holds for our fellow animals.”
Virtually all hunting and fishing groups are active in protecting and managing the species they harvest. They want healthy herds and proper management of wildlife.
According to an Interior Department spokesman, the main thrust of the changes is to bring federal law more in line with existing state laws and notes that “hunting is currently allowed on 377 national wildlife refuges.”
In stark contrast to Barack Obama’s heavy handed repression of hunting and fishing, President Donald Trump’s administration came out as a friend to sportsmen with a similar move last year.
Under Obama, administrators “did not appreciate access to hunting and target shooting like this administration does,” an Interior spokesman related in 2017.
Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt wants American sportsmen to know that, to his agency:
“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.”
The proposal affecting the 2019-20 season will “allow hunters to take wild turkey and feral hog on more than 16,000 acres in Oklahoma’s Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge.” In Denver, “hunting of duck, grouse, elk and mule deer” at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery” will be permitted for the very first time.
Environmentalists don’t have any reason to be alarmed, the Fish and Wildlife Service assures. The new federal law will only approve hunting on a particular refuge “after rigorous examination of the available information.” That assessment will be made by the manager of the refuge and must include “a conservation plan.”