Trump officials greenlight hunting expansion at nearly 150 wildlife refuges, fish hatcheries

Trump officials greenlight hunting expansion at nearly 150 wildlife refuges, fish hatcheries
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The Trump administration on Tuesday opened up or expanded hunting and fishing at nearly 150 national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries, expanding hunters' ability to kill big game, migratory birds and other animals.

The 147 newly opened or expanded hunting sites are scattered across nearly every state and include parts of the Everglades in Florida, the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Texas and the Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge in Kansas.

“The Trump Administration has now made an additional 2.3 million acres accessible to new hunting and fishing opportunities,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement. “We continue to take significant actions to further conservation initiatives and support sportsmen and women who are America’s true conservationists.”

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While officials touted the efforts as creating greater access for sportsmen, environmentalists expressed concerns that the weakened protections could harm ecosystems and jeopardize protected species by allowing hunters to go after more predators.

“Mountain lions, bears and other top predators are so important to ecosystems,” Collette Adkins, the Center for Biological Diversity’s carnivore conservation director, said in a statement. “These beautiful and important animals will be in the crosshairs in many American national refuges.”

A total of 430 sites in the National Wildlife Refuge System will be open to hunting and 360 will be open to fishing following the move, with 21 national fish hatcheries also open for hunting and sport fishing.

The Center for Biological Diversity also warned that other types of animals could be accidentally shot or harmed by lead ammunition and tackle that can be toxic for birds. 

“This rule favors trophy hunters at the expense of the rest of us who love and appreciate bears, bobcats and other animals,” Adkins said. “It’s outrageous, and we’re going to do everything we can to stop it.”

The administration has made several moves previously to advance hunting, including recently easing rules for killing Alaskan bear cubs and wolf pups. 

It separately moved to open up a wildlife refuge in Alaska for oil and gas drilling on Monday, sparking controversy.