Changes Would Occur by Hunting Season and Also Simplify Regs
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have proposed opening about 248,000 acres to hunters and anglers at 30 national wildlife refuges in 21 states, and Delta Waterfowl applauds the move.
This is likely the most sweeping increase in opportunities for U.S. waterfowl hunters that we'll see in our lifetimes, John Devney, Delta Waterfowl senior vice president, said in a press release. The Duck Hunters Organization celebrates Secretary Zinke's continued efforts to offer waterfowlers better access to quality hunting.
The release said the proposal follows a 2017 measure that expanded national wildlife refuge access for sportsmen on 132,000 acres at 21 refuges. The most recent changes would be implemented in time for the 2018-'19 waterfowl seasons.
After learning about the plan, the release said, Delta collected input from its volunteers and regional events directors to develop a list of almost 100 priority refuges for opening or expanding waterfowl hunter access. It then shared the information with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
I'm pleased that many refuges on Delta's list made the final proposal, Devney said in the release. Improving access for waterfowlers is a critical component of our mission to secure the future of duck hunting. Duck hunter numbers are declining at an alarming rate — which threatens both the hunting and conservation of North American waterfowl. But we know that simply lacking a good place to hunt ducks is a key barrier to recruiting new duck hunters, and a leading reason existing waterfowlers hang up their waders for good.
Greg Sheehan, USFWS principal deputy director, said in the release that the moves are overdue.
Many pieces of the National Wildlife Refuge System have been added over the last 115 years and could've been opened to hunting but weren't, he said. And until now, nobody has ever asked, 'Why not?' We intend to open every acre of every refuge where we have the legal authority to do so. Thanks to the support of our refuge managers, I'm hopeful next year's batch of new acres open to hunting and fishing will be a noted increase over this year's.
The release said the proposal would also simplify regulations at national wildlife refuges to make them consistent with state rules.
One refuge says you must have 15 shotgun shells — not more, not less — and another says you can hunt with dogs, but they must be pointing breeds, Sheehan said in the release. These are the kinds of archaic rules that confuse those we're trying to bring into the hunting world. We intend to eliminate 2,100 lines of regulations.
There's a 30-day comment period on the proposed changes. Go to regulations.gov, and select docket No. FWS-HQ-NWRS-2018-0020 to submit comments.