U.S. President Donald J. Trump approved the single largest expansion of hunting & fishing opportunities in history by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by signing the Great American Outdoors Act into law this month.
The law is a historic opening and expansion of over 850 hunting & fishing opportunities, spread across 2.3 million acres at 147 national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries.
This move by the Trump Administration increases the number of units open to hunting in the National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) System to 430 and those open to fishing to 360. It also increases the total of National Fish Hatchery (NFH) System units open to hunting or fishing to 21.
Last year, the Trump Administration approved the addition of 1.4 million acres of existing or newly opened lands for hunting and fishing opportunities. With this additional expansion, the President has expanded hunting and fishing opportunities to just over 4 million acres across the nation, according to the USFWS.
“The Trump Administration and Secretary Bernhardt have made access to public lands for hunting and fishing and other outdoor recreation a priority since day one. Hunting and fishing are a part of our American history, and we continue to ensure we provide opportunities for these activities which epitomize our American heritage,” said Aurelia Skipwith, USFWS Service Director.
The new refuge opportunities that are opening up for the first time are:
- Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge in Florida for migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing.
- Bamforth National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming for upland game and big game hunting.
- Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia for the opening of sport fishing and for the expansion of existing migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting.
The expansions of refuge opportunities include:
- Expanding existing big game hunting onto new acres at Willapa National Wildlife Refuge in both Washington State and Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.
- Season dates for existing pheasant hunting at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in California will be expanded.
- Existing migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing will expand to new acres at Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota.
Changes being made at the fish hatcheries include the formal opening of:
- Lands on Jordan River National Fish Hatchery in Michigan to migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting.
- Lands on Berkshire National Fish Hatchery in Massachusetts to sport fishing.
- Lands at Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery in Washington state to migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting.
These changes are in addition to the conservation and recreation funding that President Trump approved for nearly $20 billion over the next 10 years. These funds will be used to fix and conserve the American people’s public lands.
“We continue to take significant actions to further conservation initiatives and support sportsmen and women who are America’s true conservationists,” said David L Bernhardt, U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
Last year, America’s sportsmen and women generated nearly $1 billion in excise taxes, supporting critical state conservation programs. The funds are generated by excise tax collections on hunting, shooting and fishing equipment and boat fuel that is distributed to all 50 states and U.S. territories by the Service.
To date, the Service has distributed more than $22.9 billion in apportionment for state conservation and recreation projects. The recipient state wildlife agencies have matched these funds with approximately $7.6 billion throughout the years. These funds are received primarily through hunting and fishing license revenues.
In addition to excise taxes collected from these activities, hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic activity in communities across the United States in 2016. This is according to the most recent National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
More than 101 million Americans — 40 percent of the U.S. population age 16 and older — pursue wildlife-related recreation, including hunting and fishing.
Across the country there are 70 national fish hatcheries visited by more than one million people each year. Hatcheries offer great opportunities for viewing the operations and learning about fish, as well as activities such as fishing, hunting, hiking, sightseeing, nature study, birdwatching and photography.
The National Wildlife Refuge System is an unparalleled network of 568 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas. The Refuge System receives more than 59 million visits annually.
National wildlife refuges provide vital habitat for thousands of species and access to world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and paddling to nature watching, photography and environmental education.
A variety of organizations support this expansion as people seek healthy ways to enjoy time away from their homes.
“Now, more than ever, Americans are desperate to get outside and enjoy all of the natural beauty our nation has to offer. This historic expansion of access to our public lands will provide increased opportunities for hunters, anglers, hikers and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts – or simply those who seek an outlet from being cooped up indoors these last few months. DU applauds this final rule by Secretary Bernhardt and Director Skipwith. We look forward to its swift implementation and to getting America back to nature for the best social distancing there is and the cheapest therapy available: the outdoors,” said Adam Putnam, CEO of Ducks Unlimited.