More Hunting Opportunities On National Wildlife Refuges

U.S. Fish and Wildlife seeking public input until Nov. 1 on proposed alligator hunting at Banks Lake Refuge.

GON Staff | October 2, 2019

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering opening the Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge to hunting. The public is being invited to provide input that should be considered in the development of the hunt plan.

Initial considerations of this proposal could include alligator hunting two weekends during the Georgia alligator hunting season, for a total of six hunting days in accordance with state regulations. Biological surveys conducted on the refuge indicate that the lake and surrounding wetlands should support a limited alligator hunt. Any proposed hunting opportunities would be managed in accordance with all state regulations.

The public is encouraged to provide input by writing to: 2700 Suwannee Canal Road Folkston, GA 31537; or they may email [email protected]. Please put “Public Input-Banks Lake Hunting” in the subject line of the email. Comments will be accepted until Nov. 1, 2019.

Many refuges across the national are seeing expanded hunting opportunities. On Aug. 30, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced new hunting and fishing opportunities to more than 1.4 million acres of federal lands nationwide, continuing the Trump Administration’s efforts to increase recreational access on public lands.

As part of the Aug. 30 announcement, expanded hunting opportunities are coming to three Georgia refuges:

Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge: Expand season date ranges for existing upland game hunting to further align with state regulations and expand existing big game hunting by increasing quota numbers on 6,980 acres to increase access.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge: Expand method of take and season date ranges for existing big game hunting on 3,822 acres to further align with state regulations.

Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge: Expand season date range for existing raccoon, opossum and big game hunting on 33,744 acres to further align with state regulations.

“This is the largest single effort to expand hunting and fishing access in recent history,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “President Trump has made increasing public access and streamlining government functions priorities of his administration, and this new rule delivers on both fronts given the unprecedented expansion of public acreage and removal or revision of 5,000 hunting and fishing regulations to more closely match state laws. This is a big win for sportsmen and sportswomen across the country and our collective conservation efforts.”

The expansion included in the rule is more than double the acreage that has been opened or expanded compared to the last five years combined. Seventy-seven national wildlife refuges and 15 national fish hatcheries managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are incorporated in the new rule and are now open to hunting and fishing for the first time or have expanded opportunities for new game species.

“We are pleased to offer all Americans access to hunting and fishing opportunities and other recreational activities on refuge and hatchery lands where they are compatible with our conservation management goals,said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Margaret Everson.

This action will now bring the number of units in the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System where the public may hunt to 381 and the number where fishing will be permitted to 316. In addition, this will formally open lands on 15 hatcheries of the National Fish Hatchery System to hunting and/or sport fishing for the first time.

A copy of the final rule and a complete list of all of the refuges and hatcheries affected are available online.

Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic activity in communities across the United States in 2016, according to the Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years. More than 101 million Americans — 40 percent of the U.S. population age 16 and older — pursue wildlife-related recreation, including hunting and fishing.

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