March 5, 2014, WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe today announced the agency will expand hunting and fishing opportunities throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System, opening up new hunting programs on six refuges and expanding existing hunting and fishing programs on another 20 refuges. The rule also modifies existing refuge-specific regulations for more than 75 additional refuges and wetland management districts.

The Service manages its hunting and fishing programs on refuges to ensure sustainable wildlife populations, while offering traditional wildlife-dependent recreation on public lands.

“For more than a century, hunters and anglers have been the backbone of conservation in this country and a driving force behind the expansion of the National Wildlife Refuge System,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “By providing more hunting and fishing opportunities on refuges, we are supporting a great recreational heritage passed down from generation to generation, creating economic growth in local communities and helping to ensure that conservation stays strong in America.”

Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the Service can permit hunting and fishing where they are compatible with the refuge’s purpose and mission. Hunting, within specified limits, is permitted on more than 335 wildlife refuges. Fishing is permitted on more than 271 wildlife refuges.

“Hunting and fishing are time-honored ways to enjoy the outdoors and teach people to value nature,” said Director Ashe. “Our National Wildlife Refuge System has millions of acres of public land and water to provide quality hunting and fishing experiences. We hope these expanded hunting and fishing programs will allow more Americans to experience this connection with nature.”

Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities on national wildlife refuges help stimulate the economy and generate funding for wildlife conservation. Banking on Nature, a Service report released in November, showed refuges pumped $2.4 billion into the economy. Across the country, refuges returned an average $4.87 in total economic output for every $1 appropriated in Fiscal Year 2011.

Other wildlife-dependent recreation on national wildlife refuges includes wildlife photography, environmental education, wildlife observation and interpretation.

What this press release doesn’t mention about the amount of money pumped into the economy by the National Wildlife Refuge System, as stated in the Banking on Nature Report, about 72 percent of total expenditures are generated by non-consumptive activities on refuges! That’s right, the overwhelming benefits to the environment and the economy are generated by non-consumptive uses of the refuges like wildlife photography, environmental education, wildlife observation and interpretation, not hunting and fishing.

The Service’s final rule opens the following refuges to hunting for the first time:

Items below in blockquotes state the purpose and mission of the specific National Wildlife Refuge mentioned.

New York

Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, which protects 597 acres in Ulster County, NY, was established in July 1999 to support grassland-dependent migratory birds and wintering raptors. With views of the majestic Shawangunk Ridge, the refuge is among a dwindling number of sites in New York State (one of only two sites in the Hudson Valley) large enough to support the entire assemblage of northeastern grassland birds. The refuge has been identified as a Biodiversity Focus Area and an Important Bird Area (Audubon New York), a designation given only to places that support significant abundance and diversity of birds. Many of the birds found on the refuge are included on lists of endangered, threatened, special concern or priority species, including the short-eared owl, northern harrier, upland sandpiper, Henslow’s sparrow, grasshopper sparrow, vesper sparrow, horned lark, and bobolink1.

 

Oregon

Nestucca Bay Refuge, established in 1991, provides important winter habitat for the formerly endangered Aleutian Canada goose and serves as an important overwintering site for 15% of the declining population of the dusky Canada goose. Other subspecies of white-cheeked geese, including cackling geese (Taverner’s and cackling) and Canada (lesser and western), also use refuge pastures2. Historically firearms have been prohibited on the refuge.

Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge was established to protect salt marsh, brackish marsh, tidal sloughs, mudflats, and coniferous and deciduous forestland. The refuge provides nursery grounds for coho and chinook salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout. The primary ecological goal for the refuge is to allow the salt marsh to return to its natural tidally influenced state3.

Pennsylvania

Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge was established in December 2008 for the conservation of migratory birds and federal trust species, and the habitats they depend on. The lands and waters of the Cherry Valley have been widely recognized for their valuable natural resources. These include a diverse mosaic of wetland and upland habitats that support an unusually large number of federal trust species, including five federally listed threatened or endangered species4.

Wyoming

Cokeville Meadows NWR was established to protect wetland and riparian habitat associated with the Bear River that is important to a diversity of migratory birds. The area, recently nominated as an Important Bird Area by Audubon Wyoming, provides nesting habitat for 32 water bird species including sandhill cranes, white-faced ibis, black terns, black-necked stilts, American bitterns, and a variety of waterfowl, marsh, and shorebirds. If developed, these wetlands may someday provide suitable nesting habitat for trumpeter swans.

Refuge habitats also provide important habitat for resident species. Greater sage grouse use upland sagebrush areas for nesting while riparian areas provide important feeding sites for their broods. Big game, including antelope, mule deer, and elk also utilize Refuge habitats5.

 

In addition, the Service expands hunting and sport fishing on the following refuges:

California

Florida

This decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service makes it possible to allow a controversial alligator hunt to take place a Loxahatchee NWR.

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

  • Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting.

Maine

Missouri

  • Mingo National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is also already open to sport fishing.

New Mexico

Oregon

Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge protects the largest remaining tidal salt marsh within the Coquille River estuary. Located near the mouth of the Coquille River, it is an oasis for migrating shorebirds, waterfowl, coho salmon, and threatened and endangered species including Bald Eagle and California Brown Pelican.

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established on August 18, 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt as the Lake Malheur Bird Reservation. Roosevelt set aside unclaimed lands encompassed by Malheur, Mud and Harney Lakes “as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds.” The newly established “Lake Malheur Bird Reservation” was the 19th of 51 wildlife refuges created by Roosevelt during his tenure as president. At the time, Malheur was the third refuge in Oregon and one of only six refuges west of the Mississippi6.

Texas

The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1937 to serve as “a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife…” and “…for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds…”7

Vermont

Washington

Willapa National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to protect migrating birds and their habitat at a time when many estuaries and shallow water bays were being destroyed in the name of progress. The refuge has grown to encompass diverse ecosystems including salt marsh, muddy tidelands, forest, freshwater wetlands, streams, grasslands, coastal dunes and beaches. This rich mix of habitats provide places for over 200 bird species to rest, nest and winter, including over 30 species of waterfowl (ducks and geese) and over 30 species of shorebirds. Other animals such as chum salmon, Roosevelt elk, and over a dozen species of amphibians benefit from the protection of the National Wildlife Refuge System, and the care of dedicated refuge staff and other friends of wildlife, like you8.

Do these decisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to open hunting for the first time or expand hunting and sport fishing on these wildlife refuges seem compatible with their stated purposes and missions to you? Do you think a refuge like Nestucca NWR, which has had firearms prohibited on the refuge for the entire 23 years of its existence, should be opened to migratory bird hunting?

Whooping cranes are one of the most rare, highly endangered and intensively monitored bird species in North America. The Aransas-Wood Buffalo population (AWB), which breeds in northern Canada and winters in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, is the only remaining wild, self-sustaining migratory population of whooping cranes on the planet. Does it seem like a good idea to you that this refuge be opened for migratory bird hunting?

References: 1Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, 2Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, 3Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge, 4Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge, 5Cokeville Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, 6MalheurNWR, 7Aransas NWR, 8Willapa NWR

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