In an effort to offer more Americans a chance to enjoy the great outdoors, the Trump administration has announced the largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities by the Fish and Wildlife Service in its history.
The action impacts more than 2.3 million acres at 147 national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries.
“On the heels of President Trump signing the most significant conservation and recreation funding in US history, providing nearly $20 billion over the next 10 years to fix and conserve the American people’s public lands, the Trump Administration has now made an additional 2.3 million acres accessible to new hunting and fishing opportunities,” Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt said in an Interior Department news release.
The release called the Trump administration’s efforts to open lands to outdoor enthusiasts “unprecedented.”
“We continue to take significant actions to further conservation initiatives and support sportsmen and women who are America’s true conservationists,” Bernhardt said.
The National Wildlife Refuge System will now have 430 units open to public hunting and 360 open to fishing. The new rule boosts to 21 the number of National Fish Hatchery System units open to hunting or sport fishing.
The department highlighted new refuge opportunities at Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, Bamforth National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming and Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia. Expansions will take place at Willapa National Wildlife Refuge in Washington state and Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.
The expansion was supported by members of Congress and supporters of the public’s use of public lands.
“The Trump Administration’s historic expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities on federal lands is a serious win for our nation’s outdoorsmen and future conservation efforts,” Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi said. “Recreational hunters and fishermen are among our nation’s most ardent conservationists and will help ensure these areas are preserved for future generations of Americans to enjoy.”
Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President Jeff Crane called the expansion the “single largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities in the history of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”
“Today’s final rule is welcome news to hunters and fishermen in Wyoming and across the country,” Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming said. “In Wyoming, hunting and fishing are a huge part of our way of life. I’m pleased we will now have expanded recreation access at a time where socially distant outdoor activities like hunting and fishing are more important than ever.”
“Unlocking federal lands and waters to hunting, fishing, and other activities gives Americans more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and boosts economic activity. I applaud the Trump administration’s actions to expand recreational opportunities on federal lands,” Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said.
“The American public needs outdoor recreation opportunities for their physical and mental well-being more than ever,” said Kelly Hepler, secretary of South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks and President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
“By practicing responsible recreation, Americans can enjoy these new opportunities to get outside to enjoy the lands and waters, and fish and wildlife resources, of our great nation.”
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act, which will fund deferred maintenance projects on America’s public lands, according to the White House.
“When we explore the outdoors and see our magnificent mountain ranges, coastlines, deserts, forests and great open spaces, we develop a deeper appreciation for the beauty and importance of our natural environment,” wrote Mary Neumayr, chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.
“Now more than ever, Americans are seeking to get outside and experience our national parks and national wildlife refuge systems. The Great American Outdoors Act will ensure that these national treasures can be explored for generations to come. As Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, I will continue to support the President as he works to restore, preserve, and protect American’s lands, air, and water,” she added.
“After decades of abandonment and neglect, we’re once again taking care of America’s historic sites, lush forests, towering mountains and beautiful windswept prairies and precious wetlands and wildlife. President Theodore Roosevelt was right when he called these exquisite resources ‘the most glorious heritage a people ever received,'” Trump said.
“President Roosevelt understood that our nation’s untamed spirit of adventure, exploration and discovery is kindled in the great outdoors. It’s the same spirit that calls settlers and pioneers to head West to brave the unknown and to carve out a new life on the wild frontier. The president understood and enshrined conservation at the heart of the Republican Party. And today, we’re building upon that noble legacy,” Trump added.
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