Delta Waterfowl commends U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a proposal to open 248,000 new acres to hunters and anglers on 30 national wildlife refuges across the United States.
The changes, which would be implemented in time for 2018-2019 waterfowl seasons, are proposed on the heels of a measure last fall that expanded access for sportsmen and women across 132,000 acres at 21 national wildlife refuges.
“This is likely the most sweeping increase in opportunities for U.S. waterfowl hunters that we’ll see in our lifetimes,” said John Devney, Delta Waterfowl senior vice president. “The Duck Hunters Organization celebrates Secretary Zinke’s continued efforts to offer waterfowlers better access to quality hunting.”
Upon learning that the USFWS was working to increase hunting access on refuges, Delta Waterfowl collected input from the organization’s regional events directors and volunteers across the United States to develop a list of nearly 100 priority refuges for opening or expanding waterfowl-hunter access. Delta leadership shared this grassroots intel with the USFWS in June 2017.
“I’m pleased that many refuges on Delta’s list made the final proposal,” Devney said. “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.”
The proposal is encouraging on these fronts, as are its plans to continue rolling out new acres for hunting access on an annual basis. According to Greg Sheehan, USFWS principal deputy director, these moves are long 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,” Sheehan 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.”
Additionally, the proposal would simplify regulations on national wildlife refuges to make them more consistent with state laws.
“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. “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.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will seek comments from the public on the proposed rule for 30 days, beginning with publication in the Federal Register in the coming days.
Source: Delta Waterfowl