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Service Expands Hunting and Fishing Opportunities

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the opening of Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota to big game hunting of deer and upland game hunting of turkey for the first time, while expanding hunting and fishing activities at nine other refuges. Notice of the final 2011-2012 Refuge-Specific Hunting and Sport Fishing Regulations published in the Federal Register on September 9, 2011.

More than 250 comments were received during the 30-day public comment period on the proposed expansion. Only 18 comments opposed the amended regulations.

“The National Wildlife Refuge System, a vital part of our shared natural heritage, offers Americans more than 320 hunting programs across the country. The Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to these programs – especially for youth and those with disabilities – wherever they are compatible with refuge purposes,” said Service Director Dan Ashe.

Among the changes are: Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge, CO, increases big game hunting by offering elk hunting for the first time. The refuge also allows migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and fishing. Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, LA, adds waterfowl and coot hunting to its list of migratory bird hunting activities. The refuge also allows fishing. Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge, MS, adds duck and geese hunting to its migratory bird hunting activities; squirrel, rabbit and raccoon hunting to its upland game hunting activities; and deer and hog hunting to its big game hunting activities. The refuge also permits fishing. Currituck National Wildlife Refuge, NC, opens to big game hunting of deer and hogs. Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, MN, increases acreage for migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, MN/IA, increases acreage for migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting, and expands the species for migratory bird and upland game hunting. Ouray National Wildlife Refuge, UT, allows upland game hunting of turkey and big game hunting of elk for the first time. The refuge also allows migratory bird hunting and fishing. Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, MN, opens new areas to migratory bird hunting. It allows big game hunting of turkey and deer for the first time. The refuge is also open to fishing. Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, TX, opens three new units to upland game hunting of squirrels and rabbits, and big game hunting of feral hogs and white-tailed deer. The refuge is also open for migratory bird hunting and fishing.

While definitions of hunting categories vary by refuge and state, migratory bird hunting generally includes ducks and geese. Upland game hunting may cover such animals as game birds, rabbit, squirrel, opossum and coyote. Big game hunting may include such animals as wild turkey, deer and feral hogs.

The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 directs the Service to permit hunting and fishing along with four other types of wildlife-dependent recreation where they are compatible with refuge purpose and mission. Hunting, within specified limits, is offered on more than 300 national wildlife refuges. Fishing is offered on more than 270 national wildlife refuges. Other wildlife-dependent recreation on national

wildlife refuges includes wildlife photography, environmental education, wildlife observation and interpretation.

To find hunting programs offered in the National Wildlife Refuge System, please visit: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/hunting/.

To find the final regulations, please visit: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-09-09/pdf/2011-22752.pdf.