Department of the Interior to Expand Public Land Access

The new proposal would open or expand 939 hunting and sport fishing opportunities.

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The Department of the Interior has recognized a new proposal to increase hunting and sport fishing opportunities by expanding public land and water access. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the move May 4. The proposal would cover 2.1 million acres at 90 national wildlife refuges and one national fish hatchery.

The proposed rule would open or expand 939 opportunities for hunting and sport fishing for game species. The service noted hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic value across U.S. communities in 2016. And, a service survey found 101 million Americans pursue wildlife-related recreation — nearly a third of the U.S. population.

“We are committed to ensuring Americans of all backgrounds have access to hunting and fishing and other recreational activities on our public lands,” said Department of the Interior service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “Hunters and anglers are some of our most ardent conservationists, and they play an important role in ensuring the future of diverse and healthy wildlife populations. Our lands have also provided a much-needed outlet to thousands during the pandemic and we hope these additional opportunities will provide further connection with nature, recreation, and enjoyment.”

The proposal aims to bring the number of public use hunting units to 434 in the service’s National Wildlife Refuge System, in addition to 378 permitted fishing areas. The rule also proposes to formally bring the total number of National Fish Hatchery System units open to hunting or sport fishing to 22.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stated it will seek public comments on the proposed rule for 60 days.

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