The Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed slightly expanding hunting and fishing opportunities in national refuges, even as conservationists seek to end the use of lead ammunition and fishing gear on public lands.
During a day of dueling proposals, the federal agency said it wants to open or expand hunting and fishing opportunities for game species in 19 additional wildlife refuges on about 54,000 acres nationwide. national. In the proposed new hunting and fishing areas, people will be restricted to lead-free shells, ammunition and tackle.
“This proposed rule underscores the administration’s commitment to strengthening and increasing hunter and angler access to the lands and waters of the National Wildlife Refuge System,” said FWS Director Martha Williams.
The proposed rule includes 110 distinct opportunities for hunting or sport fishing, where an opportunity is a species on a field station.
The proposal would increase the number of sanctuaries where the public can hunt to 436 and the number where fishing will be allowed to 378.
New refuge opportunities include the proposal to open upland game and big game hunting for the first time at the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge in California and to open the Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge in Maine and New York to migratory birds, upland game and big game. hunt.
“The best available science…indicates that lead ammunition and tackle can have negative impacts on wildlife and human health, and that these impacts are more acute for certain species,” FWS said in a statement, adding that the proposal “provides a measured approach. by not adding to the use of lead in lands of refuge” and that “the Service will seek the advice of partners on methods to address the use of lead and is committed to following a transparent process for this TO DO “.
The refuge system spans 567 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts.
Under the Refuge System Improvement Act 1997, the FWS permits hunting and fishing as well as four other types of wildlife dependent recreation including wildlife photography, environmental education, viewing and wildlife interpretation, when compatible.
In a push for faster action, the Center for Biological Diversity, Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Sierra Club filed a legal complaint petition today calling on the government to phase out the use of lead fishing ammunition and tackle in all shelters.
“The evidence is irrefutable that [Interior] must take the common sense step of phasing out toxic lead ammunition and fishing tackle in our national wildlife refuges,” said Jonathan Evans, legal director of environmental health at the center.
The petition notes that birds consume lead-based fishing tackle lost in lakes and rivers.
“There are safer and more cost-effective alternatives today to protect Texas families from lead poisoned game,” said Rebecca Bernhardt, executive director of Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Phasing out lead ammunition and gear promotes a healthy, toxic-free wildlife refuge system for everyone.”
The FWS proposal notes that the Patoka River NWR in Indiana proposes to require lead-free ammunition and equipment by fall 2026. The agency also said that Blackwater, Canaan Valley, Chincoteague, Eastern Neck, Erie, Great Thicket, Patuxent Research, Rachel Carson and Wallops Island shelters “analyzed the phase-out of lead ammunition and equipment” and plan to offer a lead-free rule by 2026-2027.
It’s a constantly hot topic, the subject of both litigation and legislation.
Last month, 27 Senate Republicans, led by Montana Sen. Steve Daines, urged Williams not to ban lead. This decision followed the introduction of S.4157by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), which would require the FWS to develop regulations prohibiting the use of lead ammunition on all lands and waters managed by the service (Daily O&MMay 6).
“Policies or actions that reduce or limit sporting activities necessarily involve wildlife conservation programs by affecting the revenues of state agencies” by reducing the number of hunters visiting national wildlife refuges, wrote the senators.