EDGEFIELD, S.C. — On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced a proposal for new or expanded access to 1.4 million acres across 74 national wildlife refuges and 15 national fish hatcheries managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a plan supported by the National Wild Turkey Federation.
“The NWTF is thrilled that the FWS continues to look at expanding hunting and fishing opportunities for the American public,” said Joel Pedersen, NWTF director of government affairs. “In addition to all the other opportunity provided, this proposal will specifically affect 18 refuges across 10 states, opening more than 139,000 acres to turkey hunting for the first time and expanding youth turkey hunting opportunity on an additional 62,000 acres. We thank Secretary Bernhardt and the Service for their continued commitment to provide access and opportunity to sportsmen and women.”
The proposal directly addresses one of the more common reasons given for the decline in hunting participation – hunters do not have places to enjoy their outdoor pursuits. This is something the NWTF also is addressing head on through its Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative goal to open new access to 500,000 acres for outdoor recreation.
“President Trump is committed to expanding public access on public lands, and this proposal is executing on that directive by opening and increasing more access to hunting and fishing by the Fish and Wildlife Service at more stations and across more acres than ever before,” Bernhardt said in a news release from the FWS. “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. These refuges and hatcheries provide incredible opportunities for sportsmen and women and their families across the country to pass on a fishing and hunting heritage to future generations and connect with wildlife.”
According to the FWS, they will seek comments from the public on the proposed rule for 45 days, beginning with publication in the Federal Register in coming days.
The plan is to finalize all proposed changes in time for the upcoming 2019-2020 hunting season.