Kristyn Brady

June 6, 2019

8 Places Where Will Be New Public Access to Hunting and Fishing by the Fall Opener

Updated as of Sept. 13, 2019: These changes to refuge access were finalized on September 10, 2019 after a public comment period. The Interior Department will indeed expand hunting and fishing opportunities on some national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries.

In a ceremony at Ottowa National Wildlife Refuge in Ohio this summer, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced a proposal to expand hunting and fishing access on some U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-run refuges and fish hatcheries and open new sportsmen’s access on others. This recognizes the value of hunting and fishing to the American economy and addresses one of the major threats to hunting and fishing participation—lost access.

“This announcement will benefit America’s sportsmen and women by providing access to prime hunting and fishing areas,” said Christy Plumer, TRCP’s chief conservation officer. “As public access remains a challenge across the nation, opportunities like this are a shining example of what we can do to support our outdoor recreation economy.”

A public comment period allowed Americans, including representatives of state agencies that work in partnership to manage wildlife on these public lands, a chance to weigh in on the changes. Important feedback and calls for clarification are addressed within the official rule posted to the Federal Register.

These just a handful of the areas that will provide new hunting and fishing access to all Americans by the fall opener.

Photo by Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands.
Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Wisconsin

This series of islands in Lake Michigan, off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door County Peninsula, provide critical plant and wildlife habitat that would be open to hunting and fishing for the very first time. On Plum Island, once the site of a U.S. Coast Guard facility, shoreline-only fishing has been discussed, and deer hunting could be expanded to a section of Detroit Island. (According to the Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands, special tags have been available since 2016 to manage the deer herd on Plum Island.)

Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS.
Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, Wyoming

Areas already open to some hunting on this refuge in Southwest Wyoming’s high desert plains would allow deer and elk hunting for the first time under the new proposal. Designated units are already open to fishing and hunting for mule deer, pronghorn antelope, moose, ducks, and sage grouse, which actually helped give the refuge its name. Seedskadee is a botched rendition of the native Crow’s name for the Green River: “sisk-a-dee-agie” or “River of the Prairie Chicken.”

Photo by Alan Cressler/USGS.
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

The proposal would expand existing upland and big game hunting to additional acres on this refuge, which is home to both freshwater and saltwater marshes and some of the last remaining longleaf pine forest in the Southeast. This might include additional limited permits for deer, hogs, and turkeys.

Photo by US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Great River National Wildlife Refuge, Illinois and Missouri

This refuge, which straddles 120 miles of the Mississippi River along the Illinois-Missouri border, would expand its season dates for existing deer, turkey, and other upland game hunting to align with state seasons. The proposal would also offer hunters additional methods—currently there is a firearm season for antlerless deer on Fox Island and special permits for muzzleloader-only deer hunting in the 1,700-acre Delair Division.

Photo by Danielle Lloyd/USFWS.
15 National Fish Hatcheries Across the U.S.

Leadville National Fish Hatchery in Colorado and Iron River National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin would formally open lands for migratory gamebird, upland game, and big game hunting. Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery in Texas and Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery in Washington are proposing to formally open their lands to recreational fishing.

Always check and follow all refuge and state regulations before taking advantage of hunting and fishing opportunities on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands.

 

Top photo by Joseph McGowan/USFWS.

33 Responses to “8 Places Where Will Be New Public Access to Hunting and Fishing by the Fall Opener”

  1. Alan Harper

    This is another attack on our environment. Destruction of our wilderness. Promoting the extinction of our endangered wildlife. The Trump administration is unqualified and corrupt led by an illegitament Russian elected traitor coward racist rapist and POS

    • Dan Thompson

      Larry- Is your intention to preserve public lands for the the American people? If so, perhaps a more thoughtful, measured and less vulgar approach would more productive in starting a conversation.

    • Evidence please! What endangered wildlife are being hunted in these areas?If you hate President Trump that’s fine but do nottry to divide the completely bi-partisan issue of conservation.

    • Brian Swan

      Sportsmen and women are the premier conservationists in this country. We put the most money and effort into it also. Controlled hunting has led to stronger, healthier , more vibrant herds. This is the reason that states with hunting are the same states where you can see wildlife in their natural habitat. At least until the Grizzlies and wolves kill them all.

  2. Rodger Tidball

    #1. While I accept none hunters they do impact the experience of hunters.
    I prefer to get my food from hunting rather then promoting feed lots that actually deliver an unhealthy product that is inhumanly raised and does way more harm to the environment.

  3. Steve

    Alan Harper, please do even the tiniest bit of research before you speak. The North American model of conservation and recreational hunting are the farthest things possible from an “attack on the environment” and have never led to the extinction of any game species because of over hunting. Hunters and fishermen have contributed literally billions of dollars to wildlife conservation through the Pittman Robertson act on top of the millions of dollars received by state wildlife agencies every year from license sales. Without hunting and the money it generates to fund conservation it would be a very different world for wildlife, and not in a good way.

  4. Chris

    This is good news. More ways to use our land and actively manage wildlife populations. Hunters pay way more then the public towards conservation of wildlife so they should be able to benefit from it

  5. Can TRCP give us some background on why these areas have been closed to hunting and fishing? What will be the effects of opening them? I don’t necessarily oppose these changes, but I can’t believe that this administration is doing anything other than trying to divide the outdoors community.

  6. Angel Perez

    It is a great thing to see new places open to hunter THE LARGEST SUPPORTERS OF CONSERVATION! Its unfortunate that people who do not hunt are so disconnected from nature. Hunting has always been and will allways be the natural way. Truth be told I have yet to meet a hunter that is not passionate about conservation and the critters they hunt. To all who work tirelessly on conservation and access to public lands. Thank you.

  7. Eddie

    Comments like the previous ones show exactly how difficult our job is when it comes to responsible use and stewardship. I hope that in the future we can continue to do a great job in our discussions with both the non-hunters and entirely ignorant…

  8. Doug Smentkowski

    Keeping habitat in good condition is made by Hunters & Fishermen & women. We need to keep their support and adding additional places to Hunt, Fish, Camp and visit are the most important items.

  9. This is great news! It’s too bad that instead of celebrating the additional access this will create some feel compelled to launch multiple baseless accusations against others. Kudos to those that worked to secure this access for the American people.

  10. Joe Tieger

    The FWS budget and staff levels have been declining for years. All of the refuges and other programs are understaffed.Now, FWS law enforcement staff are being sent to the border with Mexico to help ICE. Who is going to manage and enforce the hunting and fishing regulations on the existing areas and these new areas. These staff reductions are part of a long running effort to first reduce the FWS budget and staff and then say these areas should be transferred to state ownership for “management.”

  11. Robert Abbott

    I sure hope that this is not a distraction for the sale of more of our public property to oil and mining companies. 1.75 million acres so far not to mention the reduction or bears ear and others. Habitat is taking a huge hit and opening our refuges could spell a decline of our fish and wildlife.

  12. The Wyoming State Constitution was amended some time back to allow Wyoming Residents the RIGHT to hunt, fish, and trap in Wyoming no matter what legislation the Fed passes. All sounds good to me. Furthermore, if you oppose game species management, and are not employed in the management of such, then you are neither a hunter or outdoorsman just a complainer with an agenda.

  13. L. Paul Schneider

    Hunting and fishing have always been part of national wildlife refuges if compatible with the purposes of the refuge. These “new” access opportunities don’t sound any different than when I was a Refuge Manager and we were constantly re-assessing how to optimize hunting and fishing within our refuge, balancing it with other mandates including sometimes preservation, other times managing wildlife populations, migratory bird needs, and public recreation. This feels like a political ploy to make people believe that this administration is prioritizing hunters and anglers, part of Trump’s base, when it is no change at all from a policy standpoint.

  14. As someone actively engaged with the USFWS in Florida raising support and funds for a new NWR north of Lake Okeechobee and engaged in adding new public access, including hunting, on several Florida Refuges, it is encouraging to see these new opportunities for recreation on our public lands. Hunters help finance the Refuges. We treasure the lands and waters crucial to healthy wildlife populations.

  15. Arn Berglund

    Hunters and fisherman have been and continue to be the primary supporter and funders of wildlife, fisheries and habitat in the U.S. It is refreshing that they are given increased opportunity. As a retired federal biologist I remember what a prof in college told me, “Don’t trust a biologist that doesn’t hunt and fish. They only want to be an observer of the ecosystem, not a participant.”

  16. david

    wow there is passion involved here with this topic. Settle down everyone. Everyone should get a share of new access points. Hunters,fishermen/women, bird watchers hikers EVERYONE.. Just make sure you set the rules and make sure they’re followed. if your caught you are out. For life ! no trash, cigarette butts, off road damage, etc.
    Leave it pristine, act like a steward of the planet and enjoy. My bow hunting season opens end of August. I get to live on and off again backpacked in, miles in. I leave nothing behind, I expect everyone to do the same. If you can’t and have to be a rule breaking pig, or act like rules don’t apply to you, hope you go to jail.

  17. WE can all benefit from this if we do it as responsible stewards of the land. Why the politics and name calling this why we are in the period we are in lets do this as responsible conservationist.

  18. Navid navidi

    They won’t be wildlife refuges if we open them to hunting now will they? I am a hunter but I don’t feel there is a lack of opportunity for hunters, therefore I don’t support opening wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries to hunting and fishing. Why can’t we just leave things be. I’m sure the interior department is not worried about hunters and fishermen, they probably have other agendas that won’t be favorable to hunters and fishermen..

  19. Paul Knittel

    In case everyone doesn’t know, Large portions of land is landlocked by private land owners. Access to these lands will need to be bought, as a right of way.

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Kristyn Brady

April 18, 2019

How I Got to Hunt Elk with My Conservation Idol, Steven Rinella

A smart auction bid put Brian Duncan out in the field with the MeatEater host for a dream hunt

If you listen to the MeatEater podcast or watch Steven Rinella’s show, you probably feel like you know him and his whole crew. But you’d be forgiven for feeling a little pressure if he was watching you line up on a bull. Brian Duncan gives us a taste of what it was like to bid for and win a truly unique Colorado elk hunt that brought him face to face with his conservation idol and a hunter’s hunter.

Here’s his story.

I couldn’t believe it when I won—I didn’t think I had a chance at having the highest bid, but before you knew it, I was on the trip of a lifetime with Steven Rinella. He’s someone I’ve always looked up to in the hunting and fishing world, and the information he puts out there really inspired me to get into conservation over the years.

But the last thing I wanted to be was a goofy fan, so there were some jitters about meeting and hanging out with him and Janis Putelis. In the weeks leading up to the hunt, I kept thinking, Am I going to miss or do something stupid in front of them? But those feelings went away quickly once we arrived—not only were they fantastic and welcoming, but there was little to no time to be nervous.

Together with my nephew Jon and some friends, we touched down in Denver and drove up to the ranch, where we immediately sighted in our rifles—we were hunting within hours of being on the ground. Our buddies went fishing with folks from the TRCP, while I went with Steve and Janis guided Jon.

Little did we know that this hunt would start slow and have a fairly dramatic conclusion.

At first, Steve and I were just trying to establish a pattern of behavior for this group of elk that liked to hang in a meadow. They seemed to know exactly when it was about to be legal shooting light, because they’d filter into the timber so we didn’t have a shot. It was a cat-and-mouse game to set up in the right spot with enough light left.

I was getting antsy as the days passed and I felt like I only had a few chances left. But things started heating up on our last afternoon: They’d been bugling at us all day, and I was getting excited thinking, This is finally going to happen.

But then, suddenly, we heard a shot—my nephew Jon had gotten his bull. I was excited for him, but knew I’d be disappointed if it had spooked the elk on their way to my field.

Still, they came streaming into the meadow, and we were in position. There were only a few minutes of legal shooting light left. Steve was pointing out a bull and I was trying to find it in my binos and scope, but ultimately I thought it was just too dark to risk having a near miss.

We celebrated Jon’s success that night and it would not have been a loss if we left it at that. In the evenings, Chef Andy Radzialowski prepared the most incredible meals, and the topics of discussion over dinner and coffee ranged from hunting and conservation to literature and politics. That was almost the best part, spending time with so many smart, funny, conservation-minded people and just telling stories.

Like I said, it was almost the best part.

There was a one-hour window of opportunity the next morning before everyone had to leave to make their flights, and Steve asked me if I wanted to go for it one more time. So, we got up even earlier and headed back out to the meadow.

This time, we went all the way around back to where the elk had been exiting into the timber the day before, and just minutes after legal shooting light, there was a bull right out in front of me. It was a nice 5×6 (would have been a 6×6 if one of his tines wasn’t broken off) and it was bugling its head off with a bunch of cows around him. I fired, perhaps a little rushed, and he spun around, but my second shot took him down right away.

They’re always such impressive animals, even if this wasn’t the biggest bull in the world. I already have a full shoulder mount at home, so I plan to have this bull euro mounted for the main wall in my lake house. The real trophy is what’s in my freezer—and every time I share that meat with family or friends, I get to tell the incredible story.

Kristyn Brady

April 11, 2019

Where Public Lands and Waters Heal Unseen Wounds

An organization that provides all-expenses-paid flyfishing trips to combat veterans ensures that participants go home with so much more than campfire stories

With the inspiring success of organizations like Project Healing Waters and Casting for Recovery, many sportsmen and women are aware of the emotional and physical healing power of the outdoors. But when Dan Cook, formerly a financial executive, set out to establish Rivers of Recovery in 2009, he wanted to prove that the act of fly fishing—not to mention the camaraderie of bringing veterans together in remote and beautiful places—actually made a biological impact on returning military service members.

“They analyzed urine and saliva samples from the program participants before, during, and in the 6, 9, and 12 months after a fishing trip,” says Amy Simon, who started out as a Rivers of Recovery volunteer before running the organization with Cook and eventually stepping into the executive director position in charge of all operations and program curriculum. “The tests showed lower cortisol levels after fishing, and the participants reported sleeping better, having lower stress, and, in some cases, going off medications they’d relied on for their mental health. Dan really wanted to go beyond starting an organization and actually prove we were making a difference.”

Thirty veterans took part in their first trip out of Dutch John, Utah, and these days the organization runs programs in eight different states, touching countless lives in the process. Over time, they discovered that building an experience within an existing community of local veterans was very beneficial, compared to flying a group out to Utah. This way, relationships could be built and maintained after the trip, and supportive local businesses, fishing guides, yoga instructors, and other volunteers remained in the participants’ community as resources.

“We found we could leave behind a footprint of support,” says Simon.

She was also instrumental in launching RoR’s first trips exclusively for female veterans, who may be dealing with entirely different issues than men when they return home. In the October 2017 issue of DUN Magazine, U.S. Army veteran Monica Shoneff explained, “A lot of female vets get out of the military and jump back into caring for a family. Self-care becomes a low priority. Where men can focus on themselves, we get lost.”

Now an RoR volunteer, Shoneff estimates that 95 percent of the women combat veterans she’s met have experienced sexual trauma during their military careers, leaving many to deal with anxiety, depression, and high rates of PTSD.

So, how does an all-expenses-paid flyfishing excursion help? “You have to focus on what you’re doing,” she tells DUN. “It takes away from time to ruminate and think about past events or worry about the future.” Simon adds that the activities on the water and in camp start to generate trust, bring vets out of their guarded stance, and open lines of communication. “By the time you leave, you feel like you’re part of a family,” she says.

In many cases, none of this would be possible without public lands, says Simon, so conservation and the healing power of the outdoors go hand in hand. “If those resources were not available, we would not be able to succeed,” she says. “How can you not want to take care of these places that give so much to someone like a wounded veteran?”

Another active volunteer and RoR Board member, Jim Mayol, says he sees public lands issues differently now that he’s witnessed the transformation of program participants. “I see them before the trip, after, and in social settings, and there’s no doubt that the outdoors has had an impact on their healing,” he says. “It’s a no-brainer for me to advocate for these places now, where I may not have given it a lot of thought before.”

To learn more about Rivers of Recovery and how you can get involved, visit riversofrecovery.org.

To support public lands access that makes all of our hunting and fishing opportunities possible, take action to call for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

 

All photos courtesy of Rivers of Recovery.

Randall Williams

March 21, 2019

New Interior Order Supports Recreational Access to Public Lands

Modernized BLM priorities for land disposal and exchange will benefit hunting and fishing access

Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt today directed the BLM to prioritize public access in decisions regarding the disposal and exchange of BLM public lands.

Bernhardt signed Secretarial Order 3373, Evaluating Public Access in Bureau of Land Management Land Disposals and Exchanges, to help ensure that BLM public lands, no matter how small, remain in public hands if they are highly valued for outdoor recreation access.

“Sportsmen and women across the West will benefit from this Interior Department action to sustain and enhance recreational access to BLM public lands,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “In some places, there are small parcels of BLM land that serve as the only means of nearby access to hunting and fishing or as the only access points to adjoining public lands managed by other agencies. The Secretarial Order will ensure that key parcels are valued for this recreational access and help keep these lands in the public’s hands.”

“We are glad to see that recreational public access was identified as a top priority for the BLM when they make land disposal and exchange decisions,” said Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “We believe this decision will bring great benefits for hunters by sustaining access and opportunity on federally owned lands. We thank the agency for their stakeholder outreach leading up to this announcement and for taking sportsmen and women’s interests to heart.”

For the past 40 years, the BLM has been required to identify small tracts of land available for sale or disposal. Until today, this frequently included public lands that offer important recreational access. As a result, the BLM has been identifying for disposal remote, yet high-value, public land parcels, including tracts in Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ famed big game hunting Region 7 and at the base of the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming.

Today’s guidance means that the agency now must consider public access when determining the value of these isolated parcels of public lands. Further, in the event that a disposal or exchange might affect public access, the order provides additional direction to help retain that public access or makeup for any losses of access through an associated acquisition.

“We express our sincere thanks to the Department of Interior for unequivocally recognizing the value of hunting and other recreational access when making crucial decisions regarding ownership of our federal lands,” said Brent Rudolph, director of conservation policy for the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society. “The conservationists that make use of these lands benefit greatly, and their activities in turn support the management of our natural resources and financial health of many rural communities.”

A recent study led by the digital mapping company onX and TRCP found that 9.52 million acres of public lands in the West are inaccessible to the public without permission from private landowners. Small, isolated parcels of BLM land often provide the only means of access to larger parcels managed by states or other federal agencies that would otherwise be similarly “landlocked.” Because of today’s directive, the BLM must now weigh such potential implications in any decision regarding the disposal or exchange of these types of parcels.

“GPS technology has revolutionized the way that Americans use their public lands, making it easier than ever before for the average outdoor enthusiast to identify and access smaller, out-of-the-way parcels,” said onX founder Eric Siegfried. “As a result, there’s been a growing awareness in recent years that landlocked or inaccessible public lands represent lost hunting and fishing opportunities for the American people. We applaud the Department of the Interior for reaffirming the importance of public land access, and for taking this step to ensure that all Americans can take advantage of the incredible experiences offered by our nation’s public lands.”

“Access is one of the most significant priorities for hunters and anglers and a real concern for new sportsmen and women in particular,” said John Gale, conservation director for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Our public lands and waters provide access to all regardless of stature. We thank the administration for their leadership and foresight in elevating consideration for lands that not only support fish and wildlife habitat but provide access and opportunities to ensure that our outdoor traditions endure.”

See the TRCP’s fact sheet on BLM public lands identified for disposal.

 

Photo: Jeff Clark/BLM

Marnee Banks

March 12, 2019

The Land and Water Conservation Fund’s Future Is Secure

Sportsmen and women celebrate this watershed moment for conservation and outdoor economy

Today, President Trump signed bipartisan legislation permanently authorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the nation’s best tool for increasing access to public lands and supporting fish and wildlife habitat.

“From elk habitat in the Rockies to trout fisheries in the Delaware River Basin, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided public access to our nation’s best hunting and fishing spots,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The passage of this legislation proves that conservation is above partisan politics and that by working together we can leave a lasting legacy for the next generation of sportsmen and women. We now call on Congress to fully fund LWCF, sending resources to every corner of the country to benefit hunters and anglers.”

The legislation requires that 3 percent of LWCF funding be used to establish and retain access to public lands. This could help unlock some of the 9.52 million acres of public lands in the West that are landlocked by private lands with no permanent legal access.

The public lands package also contains more than 100 local and regional public lands bills that benefit sportsmen and women. It reauthorizes the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, a conservation grant program in which dollars are typically matched three times over at the local level to benefit waterfowl and wetlands. Another provision reauthorizes the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, a critical initiative to assist private landowners who want to voluntarily restore habitat on their lands.

Leading up to the passage of this legislation, TRCP organized thousands of individual sportsmen and women to contact their elected representatives urging reauthorization of the LWCF. Now, the TRCP will rally hunters and anglers to contact their congressional delegation and support fully funding LWCF at $900 million annually.

Click here to send a message to your elected officials supporting full funding for LWCF.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?

The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

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