New Proposed Game Access on National Wildlife Refuges

Public input is sought on 48 expanded opportunities at three shelters, as well as a proposal on lead ammunition, tackle

WASHINGTON – According to a US Fish and Wildlife Service proposal released yesterday, 48 new hunting opportunities will be implemented at three refuges within the National Wildlife Refuge System: Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama , the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Shelter in Minnesota.

As published in the Federal Register, the draft rule also includes proposals to eliminate lead ammunition and tackle at eight national wildlife refuges. Furthermore, none of the proposed new hunting opportunities would allow the use of traditional lead ammunition.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers praised the USFWS’s proposed expansion of access to hunting, while also offering comments on the proposed bans on lead ammunition and fishing tackle.

“Wildlife refuges in the United States have traditionally served as places to assist in the conservation of fish and wildlife, including through science-based hunting and fishing opportunities,” said John Gale, vice president for policy. and BHA Government Relations. “The US Fish and Wildlife Service proposal underscores this approach. Established in 1903 by executive order of then-President Theodore Roosevelt, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s first wildlife refuge, is administered as part of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge complex. Yesterday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service recommended expanding hunting within that complex. We appreciate the Service’s commitment to seeking and pursuing new public hunting and fishing opportunities within our refuge system.

“We believe that decisions about the use of lead-free ammunition and fishing tackle should be voluntary and incentive-based in the absence of identified impacts on the fish and wildlife population,” Gale continued. “In 2019, the BHA board of directors approved a policy statement encouraging hunters and anglers to consider voluntary use of lead-free ammunition and tackle. General regulations should be imposed only when circumstances clearly require it.

“We are encouraged that the USFWS is seeking guidance from the Federal Game and Wildlife Conservation Council, whose members have extensive experience in this area, to work collaboratively to develop policies and incentives regarding the use of firearm ammunition. lead and fishing gear on the lands of the Refuge System and waters.”

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, alternative ammunition is, on average, 25 percent more expensive than traditional lead ammunition, and availability is scarce, particularly in rural communities where many shelters are located. The scarcity raises a concerning issue of equitable access, and the high costs of ammunition could affect the price for many hunters who cannot afford lead-free alternatives.

The USFWS seeks public comment on the proposed rule within 60 days of the rule’s publication today in the Federal Register. The notice is available at, file number: FWS-HQ-NWRS-2023-0038.

Learn more about hunting at national wildlife refuges.
Learn more about fishing at national wildlife refuges.

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