WASHINGTON – Hunting groups are applauding new federal rules creating longer seasons, extended hours and expanded methods for hunting and taking different types of game on national wildlife refuges.
The changes, announced last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, affect 1.4 million acres of federal land, more than 800,000 of which are in Arizona where seven of nine national wildlife refuges would be included in the changes.
Zack May, president of Southern Arizona Quail Forever, said the changes reduce contradictions between state and federal hunting rules while making national public land more accessible to sports enthusiasts.
“Anything that improves public access to public land is a good thing,” he said.
While hunters cheered the changes, environmentalists groups greeted them with a shrug. Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity, called the expansions “relatively minor and somewhat silly,” pointing to Kofa as an example.
“The reality is that there’s not that many hunters that go there,” Hartl said. “It’s hotter than hell 98 percent of the year.”
Kofa, at more than 660,000 acres, is the largest of the wildlife refuges affected by the changes.
The Interior Department said the new rules open hunting and fishing on 77 national wildlife refuges and 15 hatcheries. The rules also remove or revise more than 5,000 hunting regulations “to more closely match state laws,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a new release announcing the change.
The department says the rules open or expand twice as much land as had been opened in the previous five years, and brings the number of refuges allowing hunting to 381. Affected refuges now have expanded season dates, longer hours or more hunting take methods for several bird and big game species, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The hunting and fishing changes unveiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service affect 77 national wildlife refuges and 15 fish hatcheries. (Photo by Bureau of Land Management/Creative Commons)