DOI Announces Largest Single Largest Expansion of Hunting and Fishing Opportunities in US History

Secretary of the Interior Barnhardt announced via press release a rule change that would create the largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities* in United States History. the plan calls for new opportunities and access across more than 2.3 million acres at 97 national wildlife refuges and 9 national fish hatcheries.

“America’s hunters and anglers now have something significant to look forward to in the fall as we plan to open and expand hunting and fishing opportunities across more acreage nationwide than the entire state of Delaware,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Hunt Fish Chiefs have been instrumental in our effort over the past two years to streamline our regulations and identify new opportunities for sportsmen and women like no other previous administration.”

The proposal would offer 900 more hunting and fishing opportunities and expand the areas where hunting and fishing are allowed. This is on top of last year’s expansion of 1.4 million acres, this proposal would bring the Trump Administration’s total expansion to almost 4 million acres nationwide.

Conservation and Hunting groups including, The National Wild Turkey Federation, The Hunting News, Safari Club International, and The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation back and strongly support the proposal. 

“The National Wild Turkey Federation is pleased that the Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service remain committed to removing barriers for hunting and fishing by increasing access and opportunities,” said CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation Becky Humphries. “Reducing barriers to hunting has been a key aspect of the NWTF’s hunter recruitment and retention efforts. The Service’s proposal to open 2.3 million acres ties directly to those efforts.”

“Anything that expands the opportunity to get outdoors and allow people to hunt and fish is a step in the right direction,” Said Aaron Futrell, author and senior editor of The Hunting News

“RMEF applauds Secretary Bernhardt for proposing to expand public hunting and fishing access at the nation’s wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries,” said President & CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation R. Kyle Weaver. “The 2020-2021 station-specific proposed rule for these facilities gives hunters and anglers new opportunities and access to 2.3 million acres of public lands and waters, building on the 1.4 million acres the Secretary opened and expanded access to last year. Opening and securing quality public access for hunters, hikers, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy lies at the heart of the RMEF mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat, and our hunting heritage. Expanded access at refuges and hatcheries gives recreationists immediate opportunities to practice safe, social distancing while enjoying the outdoors and long-term benefits to wildlife management.”

The Service will seek comments from the public on the proposed rule for 60 days, beginning with publication in the Federal Register on April 9, 2020. The notice will be available at regulation.gov  Docket Number: FWS-HQ-NWRS-2020-0013, and will include details on how to submit comments.

The Department intends to finalize the proposed changes in time for the upcoming 2020-2021 hunting seasons. A complete list of all refuges and hatcheries in the proposal is available in the proposed rule. View an online list and map.

*an opportunity is defined as one species on one field station in one state