April 9 (UPI) -- The Trump administration has announced plans to free up 2.3 million acres of federal land in wildlife refuges and fishing hatcheries to hunters and anglers.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said Wednesday the expansion will involve land at more than 100 refuges and hatcheries, calling it the single largest growth of hunting and fishing opportunities in the history of the Fish and Wildlife Service.
"America's hunters and anglers now have something significant to look forward to in the fall as we plan to open and expand hunting and fishing opportunities across more acreage nationwide than the entire state of Delaware," Bernhardt said in a statement.
The rule, for example, would for the first time open migratory bird and sport fishing at Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, big game hunting in the Bamforth National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming and upland game hunting at Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia."Hunting and fishing are an integral part of our nation's culture, economy and care for the land," said W. Laird Hamberlin, the chief executive of Safari Club International. "Increasing access and opportunities for people to take part in our sporting heritage strengthens broader conservation efforts."
Others criticized the expansion and the timing of the announcement.
"Instead of responding to pleas by state and local officials for needed agency resources, assistance, and help during this generational [coronavirus] pandemic, Secretary Bernhardt made a tone-deaf announcement that by no means could ever make up for the hunting opportunities and wildlife lost as a result of Trump's deregulatory agenda decimating our public lands and environmental protections," Jayson O'Neill, director of the Western Values Project, said in a statement.