(KFVS) - Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell announced Tuesday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to expand fishing and hunting opportunities throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The expansion will open up new hunting programs on six refuges and expand existing hunting and fishing programs on another 20 refuges. The proposed rule also modifies existing refuge-specific regulations for more than 75 additional refuges and wetland management districts.
"Sportsmen and women were a major driving force behind the creation and expansion of the National Wildlife Refuge System more than a century ago and continue to be some of its strongest supporters, especially through their volunteer work and financial contributions," Jewell said. "Keeping our hunting and angling heritage strong by providing more opportunities on our refuges will not only help raise up a new generation of conservationists, but also support local businesses and create jobs in local communities."
The service proposes opening the following refuges in Missouri and Illinois to hunting for the first time:
- Mingo National Wildlife Refuge - Expand big game hunting
Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the Service can permit hunting and fishing along with four other types of wildlife-dependent recreation where they are compatible with the refuge's purpose and mission. Hunting, within specified limits, is permitted on more than 329 wildlife refuges. Fishing is permitted on more than 271 wildlife refuges.
"Hunting and fishing are healthy, traditional outdoor pastimes deeply rooted in America's heritage and have long been enjoyed on hundreds of national wildlife refuges under the supervision of our biologists and wildlife managers," said Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe. "After careful consideration and review from the Service, this proposal represents one of the largest expansions of hunting and fishing opportunities on wildlife refuges in recent years."
National wildlife refuges generate important benefits from the conservation of wildlife and habitat through spending and employment for local economies. According to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years by the Service, more than 90 million Americans, or 41 percent of the United States' population age 16 and older, pursued wildlife-related recreation in 2011. They spent more than $144 billion that year on those activities. Nearly 72 million people observed wildlife, while more than 33 million fished and more than 13 million hunted.
The Service manages its hunting and fishing programs on refuges to ensure sustainable wildlife populations, while offering historical wildlife-dependent recreation on public lands.
Other wildlife-dependent recreation on national wildlife refuges includes wildlife photography, environmental education, wildlife observation and interpretation.