Trump administration announces major expansion of hunting and fishing access on federal lands

The Interior Department on Wednesday announced a plan to expand hunting and fishing opportunities in several federal wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries. 

The plan would increase hunting and fishing access across 1.4 million acres of public land in 74 national wildlife refuges and 15 national fish hatcheries. 

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE 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,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a press release.

“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,” Bernhardt continued.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it has worked closely with state governments to simplify refuge-specific hunting and fishing regulations across the country.

“Well managed hunting and fishing are the backbone of conservation in this country, but inconsistent or overly complex regulations can act as a disincentive,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Margaret Everson. “By aligning our refuge regulations with our state partners, we are reducing confusion and the regulatory burden on the American public, helping ensure the tradition and benefits of hunting and fishing can continue.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service will seek comments from the public for 45 days regarding the plan.

The Interior Department touted the economic impacts of sporting, noting that hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic activity in communities across the United States in 2016.

It also pointed to sporting groups praising the decision. 

“Duck hunters have been leaders in investing in the refuge system and this action will provide them with new access and opportunities. We are sincerely grateful to Secretary Bernhardt and the Fish and Wildlife Service staff who have worked hard to create these new opportunities for hunters,” John Devney, senior vice president of Delta Waterfowl, a nonprofit group that promotes duck hunting, said in the department’s press release. 

The Interior Department under President Trump has put a premium on weakening restrictions on hunting on national park land, reversing a slew of Obama-era regulations.