Department of Interior Opens 2.1 Million Acres to American Hunters and Anglers

Department of Interior Opens 2.1 Million Acres to American Hunters and Anglers

This week served up some welcome news for hunters and anglers as Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Deb Haaland announced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will open and/or expand hunting and fishing opportunities across 2.1 million acres of federal public lands. The expansion follows the Trump administration’s unprecedented opening of more than 4 million acres of federal public lands and waters between 2017-2020. Readers of this website will remember the most significant move being in 2020 when DOI Secretary David Bernhardt announced the opening of an amazing 2.3 million acres of federal lands—the single largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities by the USFWS in history.

Such expansion supports hunters and anglers, who are America’s true conservationists, and other outdoor recreationalists, making sure all Americans can pursue their outdoor interests and enjoy time spent in nature. While we hunters and anglers are always looking for and appreciate new opportunities to access our public lands, this week’s news is particularly welcome as the changes are in time for the 2021-2022 hunting seasons.

According to the DOI news release issued on Aug. 30, the USFWS’ expansion affects 88 national wildlife refuges and one fish hatchery. The DOI says the rule specifically opens or expands 910 opportunities for hunting or fishing with an “opportunity” defined as one species on one field station. It raises the number of “units” in the USFWS National Wildlife Refuge System where the public can hunt to 434 and the number where the public can fish to 378. For a list of all sites being opened or expanded, please click here.

“Responsible hunting and fishing helps to promote healthy wildlife habitats while boosting local recreation economies, said SOI Deb Haaland in the DOI news release. In a similar message, USFWS Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams added, “By expanding these opportunities, we are enhancing the lives of millions of Americans while stimulating the national economy to which hunting and fishing contribute significantly.”

Like I’ve always said when talking about the benefits of legal, regulated hunting, ensuring sustainable wildlife populations based on the best available wildlife science while providing for other wildlife-dependent recreation on public lands should be common sense. This is why the USFWS should manage hunting and fishing programs in the first place.