Secretary Zinke Moves to Expand Hunting and Fishing Opportunities in 30 National Wildlife Refuges

Will the Department of Interior’s proposal create new spots to hunt near you?

migrating mallards
Mallards at the Great River National Wildlife Refuge.USFWS

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke this week announced a proposal to open or expand hunting and fishing opportunities at 30 national wildlife refuges. Check the list below to see if that includes spots near you.

Some of these places have been traditionally closed to certain types of hunting or fishing. Other changes reflect broader opportunities at refuges already open to hunting, such as new species that hunters may soon pursue.

If finalized, Zinke’s move would bring the number of units of the National Wildlife Refuge System where the public may hunt to 377, and the number where fishing would be permitted to 312. The move would open 248,000 acres to new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities, Generally National Wildlife Refuges are created with a certain purpose in mind – such as protecting crucial nesting habitat for a certain species. Recreational opportunities, including hunting and fishing are allowed when those activities don’t interfere with – or even benefit – the core mission of the refuge.

Zinke has pushed the US Fish & Wildlife agencies to look for opportunities to expand hunting and fishing in land it oversees. Zinke has also pushed the agency to simplify regulations on refuges to more closely match the regulations set by the states where those refuges exist. Those changes would be implemented for the 2018-19 hunting seasons, according to a Department of Interior news release. “As stewards of our public lands, Interior is committed to opening access wherever possible for hunting and fishing so that more families have the opportunity to pass down this American heritage,” Zinke said.

Here’s the breakdown, so you can see if there are new opportunities near you:

ArkansasFelsenthal National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing migratory game bird, upland game and big game hunting.

CaliforniaSan Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing migratory game bird hunting, and open sport fishing for the first time.

FloridaLake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge: Open wild turkey hunting for the first time.

Illinois • Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing migratory game bird, upland game and big game hunting.

Illinois and MissouriGreat River National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing migratory game bird, upland game and big game hunting.

Illinois and WisconsinHackmatack National Wildlife Refuge: Open migratory game bird, upland game and big game hunting to all legal species in the State of Illinois.

IndianaPatoka River National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing migratory game bird, upland game, big game hunting and sport fishing

MaineMoosehorn National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing migratory game bird, upland game and big game hunting. • Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing white-tailed deer and wild turkey hunting.

Maine and New HampshireUmbagog National Wildlife Refuge: Open wild turkey hunting for the first time, and expand existing migratory game bird, upland game and big game hunting.

MarylandBlackwater National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing migratory game bird and big game hunting.

Patuxent Research Refuge: Expand existing white-tailed deer and wild turkey hunting.

MichiganShiawassee National Wildlife Refuge: Open hunting of certain migratory bird, small game, and furbearers, and expand existing migratory game bird and big game hunting.

MinnesotaGlacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge: Open certain gamebird and small mammal hunting for the first time, and expand existing migratory game bird, upland game and big game hunting.

MontanaCharles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing big game hunting. • Swan River National Wildlife Refuge: Open big game hunting for the first time.

New JerseyEdwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge: Open wild turkey and squirrel hunting for the first time, and expand existing migratory game bird and big game hunting.

New Jersey and New YorkWallkill River National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing migratory game bird hunting and sport fishing.

New MexicoSevilleta National Wildlife Refuge: Open Eurasian-collared dove and Gambel's quail hunting, and expand existing migratory game bird hunting.

North DakotaJ. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge: Open moose hunting for the first time.

Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge: Open moose hunting for the first time.

OhioCedar Point National Wildlife Refuge: Open white-tailed deer hunting for the first time.

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge: Open hunting of certain gamebirds, small mammals and furbearers for the first time, and expand existing migratory game bird and big game hunting.

OregonCold Springs National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing migratory game bird, upland game and big game hunting.

Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing migratory game bird hunting.

William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing sport fishing.

PennsylvaniaCherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing migratory game bird, upland game and big game hunting.

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum: Open white-tailed deer hunting for the first time.

UtahBear River Migratory Bird Refuge: Expand existing migratory game bird and upland game hunting. Wisconsin

Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge: Open hunting of certain gamebirds, small mammals and furbearers for the first time, and expand existing migratory game bird and big game hunting.

The Service will seek comments from the public on the proposed rule for 30 days, beginning with publication in the Federal Register in coming days. The notice will be available at www.regulations.gov, docket no. FWS-HQ-NWRS-2018-0020, and will include details on how to submit your comments. An interim copy of the proposed rule is now available here.