The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is an extremely popular destination for sportsmen in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Recently, there’s been action to re-designate the area as a National Park and Preserve, which would make at least some of the public land off limits to hunting. The Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen and Conservationists, which is the state’s largest and oldest sportsmen organization, voted against the re-designation at a recent board meeting. 

The PFSC isn’t the only hunting group in opposition. The New Jersey Federation of Sportsmen also voiced its opposition to the re-designation of the area. 

While the re-designation would not prohibit hunting in the area, the PFSC is concerned about what kind of access hunters will actually have after the land is designated a National Park and Preserve. 

“The recent movement to change the designation of the Water Gap from a National Recreation Area to a National Park and Preserve acknowledges that hunting will still be allowed on the designated Preserve areas, but PFSC is concerned that we will see a substantial loss of huntable acres in the Park areas,” PFSC President Lowell Graybill said in a news release. “West Virginia hunters recently experienced a significant loss of huntable acres with the recent New River Gorge designation change.”

Sportsmen’s fears are certainly not unfounded. As Graybill notes other states have seen this sort of thing happen. When an area gets re-designated it often comes with increased visitation and additional development within the area. There’s a risk of possibly thousands of acres being developed into roads, buildings, parking lots, and other new construction, according to the Times Leader

Currently, there are about 70,000 acres of huntable public land and about 40 miles of fishable waters within the National Recreation Area. The Sierra Club, which is pushing for the re-designation, made assurances that hunters and fishermen would have a say in what happens if Congress decides to move forward with the idea.