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April 16, 2020

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April 10, 2020

Largest Expansion of Hunting and Fishing Access Proposed for Refuges

Here’s where new acres could be open to sportsmen and women by fall 2020

This week, the Department of the Interior announced its latest proposal for expanding hunting and fishing access on National Wildlife Refuges and National Fish Hatcheries, which the department says would represent the single largest boost to access on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands in the agency’s history.

In a move that would benefit sportsmen and women in 46 states, DOI Secretary David Bernhardt has proposed enhancing recreation opportunities across more than 2.3 million acres at 97 national wildlife refuges and 9 national fish hatcheries. This is in addition to the 1.4 million acres of expanded access established last fall at 77 refuges and 15 hatcheries (including these eight hot spots.)

By our count, if the current proposal is finalized, 74 public lands would provide expanded seasons, clearer regulations, and opportunities to pursue additional species on areas already open to hunting and sportfishing. But the biggest gains are where additional acres would be opened up to hunting and/or fishing for the very first time.

Here’s where you could be exploring new terrain by this fall.

Merganser in flight at San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Rinus Baak/USFWS.
The West

Under the plan, San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge would be open to sportfishing for the first time. There are no specific details on where fishing would be allowed, but restored tidal flats and salt marshes have improved fish habitat. And California’s pheasant hunters could see a longer season at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge.

Idaho’s Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge would expand its sportfishing areas, and on the opposite end of the state, Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge could expand its offerings for deer, bobcats, migratory birds, and upland game. Minidoka has also proposed extending its elk hunting area south of Lake Walcott to more than triple the acreage. Heading toward the border with Oregon, more sportfishing would be available at Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge.

Montana already has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to hunting and fishing, but if Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge is close to home, you could have more acres for turkey and deer hunting or new sportfishing opportunities.

In Colorado, migratory bird and upland game hunting would be expanded to new acres at both Alamosa and Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuges—and you can get from one to the other in about 30 minutes if it seems like a bunch of trucks are parked when you arrive. Anglers would also find new access at Alamosa under the Secretary’s proposal.

Washington is perhaps the biggest winner in the West, with five fish hatcheries and two wildlife refuges poised to offer more access. Sportfishing would be open for the first time at Willard National Fish Hatchery and Abernathy Fish Technology Center. On the hunting side, sportsmen and women would see a major expansion for migratory bird and upland and big game hunting at Leavenworth, Little White Salmon, and Spring Creek national fish hatcheries. Blacktail, mule deer, elk, wild turkey, grouse, and bear hunting would be possible across these three public lands.

The Southwest

In Arizona, Leslie Canyon National Wildlife Refuge would be open to migratory bird, upland game, and big game hunting for the first time. Cibola National Wildlife Refuge would expand upland and big game hunting to new acres, while opening some dove hunting in its existing huntable areas. You could also get a new opportunity to chase muleys in the deep backcountry of Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, where there is already a limited desert bighorn sheep hunt each December.

The only expansion for waterfowl hunters would be in New Mexico, on Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, where javelina and hog hunting would also be opened. Nevada’s Fallon National Wildlife Refuge would also be open to hunting for the very first time. Finally, everything’s bigger in Texas, and refuge access is no exception under this proposal: Get ready for four of these public lands to expand huntable acres for turkeys, deer, pheasants, javelina, hogs, and doves.

 

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. Photo by Judy Gallagher.
The Mid-Atlantic

New York could offer more deer hunting opportunities by fall, which is great news for a state with heavy hunting pressure on public lands. Maryland could see new opportunities to hunt deer and migratory birds at Blackwater Refuge, and sportfishing would be open for the first time at Delaware’s Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. You sharpshooters who can tell a snipe from a woodcock would also get new acres to explore in Delaware. Finally, in Pennsylvania, Lamar National Fish Hatchery could open to sportfishing for the first time.

The Midwest

Illinois big game hunters would win new acres at Crab Orchard and Two Rivers refuges. Meanwhile, Great River National Wildlife Refuge could expand turkey season dates to further align with the rest of the state. Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge, with multiple tracts accessible from either Illinois or Missouri, would open hunting for the first time. And there’s something for everyone, including rail, snipe, woodcock, doves, coyotes, bobcats, pheasants, and raccoons.

Migratory bird hunting would be open for the first time at Indiana’s Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, along with expanded opportunities for small game and turkeys. And new acres would be open to pheasant, upland, and big game hunters at Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge. Count anglers in for expanded access there, too.

Minnesota would get a little of everything in this expansion—on Rydell and Northern Tallgrass Prairie refuges—including duck, geese, coot, woodcock, dove, grouse, pheasant, and wild turkey hunting. And in Kansas, existing turkey hunting and sportfishing—for walleyes, largemouth bass, black crappie, and channel catfish—would expand to new acres at Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge. Existing deer hunting areas at Flint Hills refuge would be open to some small game, bobcat, and coyote hunting, while deer hunters would join pheasant, quail, and duck hunters for the first time at Quivira refuge.

St. Marks Refuge in Florida. Photo by Alan Cressler/USGS.
The Southeast

Florida is a big winner in this proposal: The Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge—not to be confused with Everglades National Park, which is three hours away—would be open to sportfishing and migratory bird, upland, and big game hunting for the first time, in alignment with all state regulations. Big game and upland hunters will also find new access at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Deer and hog hunters would be welcome for the first time at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge outside Boynton Beach.

Not too far up route 75 in Georgia, gator hunters could have their first season at Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge. And adventurous hunters can potentially up their (small) game at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, which could soon offer armadillo, beaver, opossum, and raccoon hunting on both sides of the Georgia-South Carolina border.

The Northeast

In Connecticut, deer and turkey hunters would be welcome in new and existing hunting areas at Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge. Bonus acres would be open to bird hunters and goose hunters could get a longer season. Neighbor-to-the-north Vermont would get brand new fishing access at Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery.

The DOI proposal would be welcome news for saltwater and freshwater anglers in Maine and New Hampshire: Sportfishing would be expanded at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge on the southern coast and opened for the first time on the lakes at Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge.

Sportsmen and women in Massachusetts are within driving distance of so many of these opportunities, but they stand to gain a lot at home, too. New acres would be open to duck, bear, coyote, migratory bird, upland game, wild turkey and big game hunting across three refuges—Assabet River, Oxbow, and Great Meadows. And sportfishing would be open for the first time at Berkshire National Fish Hatchery.

The full list of proposed refuges and hatcheries can be found here or find your state on this map.

 

Top photo of deer hunting on an Iowa refuge by USFWS Midwest Region via flickr.

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Conservation Partners Jump “In The Arena” To Help Those in Need

Industry leaders spearhead efforts to combat COVID-19

We’ve said it before, but it’s always worth repeating: the TRCP is proud to have the support of some true leaders in the business world, who time and time again step up on behalf of fish, wildlife, and outdoor opportunities for all Americans. And in recent weeks, as COVID-19 has upended everyday life around this country, we’re prouder than ever of our corporate partners for their generosity and commitment to the greater good.

With many retail stores barred to entry and factory production rates slowing or halted, members of our corporate community are lending their resources to the fight. From retrofitting factories to restocking food bank shelves, these companies are committing their time, money, and production equipment to help us get through this difficult time.

As Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” By taking action when it is needed most, here’s how the companies below* are taking care of those in need and setting an example for the rest of us.

Coca-Cola

The beverage company’s Atlanta-based factory has teamed up with Georgia Tech University to produce more than 50,000 plastic surgical shields that will be distributed to local hospitals and health care workers.

L.L. Bean

Founded in 1912 by its namesake, outdoorsman Leon Leonwood Bean, this New England institution is using experience gained over the last 100+ years of producing outdoors gear to create protective masks. The company is working with MaineHealth and Intermed and has plans to use its existing supply chain team to create and distribute 1 million masks. The company is also working with local food banks and using its distribution center to restock shelves for families in need.

Mystery Ranch

In an effort to help local medical facilities, Bozeman-based Mystery Ranch is using the antimicrobial and breathable fabric used in their backpacks to produce much-needed personal protective equipment for frontline workers. Along with the time of its expert employees and the use of its sewing facilities, the industry-leading pack manufacturer has also contributed additional materials from its stock to others in the community with the capacity to manufacture extra masks.

NEMO Equipment

This outdoor equipment company is encouraging individuals to recreate responsibly while enjoying the open air through a series of posts on outdoor activities that you can enjoy near your home and a photo challenge. This Instagram-based competition is calling on those who love the outdoors to highlight the creative ways they’re enjoying outdoor spaces while practicing safe social distancing through photos. In addition, NEMO is publishing a series of blogs with ideas for close-to-home adventures to help outdoor enthusiasts alleviate their cabin fever responsibly.

Orvis

Known for its high-quality fishing gear, this company has partnered with organizations near its Roanoke, VA fulfillment center to produce 2,000 cloth face coverings per week. These non-medical-grade masks will be distributed to those experiencing homelessness in the are and will help protect this particularly vulnerable population.

Outdoor Research

Drawing on almost its nearly 40-year history of forward-thinking innovation, Outdoor Research’s Seattle factory will be converted to produce N95 surgical masks, respirators, and other personal protective equipment to help address the increased need for these essential medical supplies.

Patagonia

Despite closing operations early in the outbreak to protect workers, Patagonia has committed to providing employees with regular pay throughout the crisis in an effort to protect the communities it serves. The company also has staff reaching out to nonprofits and offering volunteer services to support their operations.

Peak Design

This environmentally-focused design company is utilizing the launch of its latest product to provide coronavirus relief and help fight climate change with a commitment to donate 100% of profits earned from the first four days (4/7-4/11) that their Travel Tripod is on sale to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation.

REI

Despite closing the doors of its 162 retail stores, this outdoor retailer has committed to pay all store employees through April 14th in a letter from the company president and CEO. The company has also made the decision to keep online stores open and is offering free shipping to support those looking for outdoor recreation opportunities while social distancing.

Simms Fishing Products

This pillar of the fishing community is “wading” into the fight against COVID-19 and partnering with Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital. The fishing products company is using Gore-Tex—a material traditionally employed in the production of their popular waterproof waders—to produce more than 1,500 medical-grade gowns per week.

Vista Outdoors

Despite uncertainty, Vista Outdoors has committed to expand its support for non-profit organizations through partnerships and brand-level support. Federal Ammunition–a company under the umbrella of Vista–has also donated multiple cases of N-95 face masks to health care facilities.

*Editor’s Note: We tried to find as many of these stories as we could, but the above list is not comprehensive. Similar efforts we might have overlooked will be added to the list as time allows. Let us know in the comments below of any other hunting and fishing brands stepping up in the fight against COVID-19.

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April 1, 2020

$49M Will Expand Recreational Access on Private Land

Because we could all use some good news right now

This month, the Natural Resource Conservation Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it would invest nearly $49 million in projects to enhance public access for outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing, on private land across 26 states. These awards are made possible by the Farm Bill’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, or VPA-HIP, which is the only federal conservation program that helps private landowners open their property to public access.

The NRCS asked state and tribal governments to apply for VPA-HIP dollars in September 2019, after Congress stepped up its investment in the program by $10 million in the most recent Farm Bill. Projects were eligible to receive up to $3 million in federal dollars to be leveraged with locally matched funding over the next three years.

Sportsmen and women fought to maintain or improve conservation funding in the 2018 Farm Bill, and the TRCP called on lawmakers to support VPA-HIP investments in walk-in access programs and other initiatives that would give rural hunters and anglers more access.

Ultimately, this could be a down payment on hunter recruitment where lack of access is a major barrier for beginners. In some places, the funding will be focused on lands near metropolitan areas or improving online resources to market these opportunities.

But don’t forget the “hip” part of this program: Dollars can also be used to improve wildlife habitat, which could boost game populations across the entire landscape. This will be done in wetland, upland, grassland, forest, and stream habitats with the most recent round of funding.

These advances for access and habitat highlight the need to continue investing in VPA-HIP in the next five-year Farm Bill, which is already something we’re prioritizing with our conservation partners.

Here are the 26 states gaining more ground, how much will be spent, and what types of habitat will benefit.

Image courtesy of Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Arizona

$1.18 million to expand the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Landowner Relations Program, which provides financial incentives to private landowners who provide the public with opportunities to hunt and fish on their land.

Arkansas

$2.1 million to enhance hunting access and waterfowl habitat on rice fields neighboring nearby National Wildlife Refuges and state Wildlife Management Areas.

Colorado

$1.2 million to expand the state’s Walk-In Access program for small- and big-game hunters.

Georgia

$1.9 million will fund the lease of farm and forest land to expand opportunities for dove hunting in the state’s Wildlife Management Area Public Access Program.

Idaho

$900,000 will fund the enrollment of additional hunting and fishing acres into the state’s Access Yes! Program, as well as jumpstart the creation of a Teton Valley Wildlife Viewing Project.

Illinois

$2 million will expand the Illinois Recreational Access Program with a focus on metropolitan areas and the enrollment of wetland easements.

Indiana

$750,000 will fund the strategic enrollment of acreage into the state’s Access Program Providing Land Enhancements (APPLE) initiative.

Iowa

$1.5 million will help expand the Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP).

Kansas

$2.1 million will fund the expansion of incentive payments and lease options made available to landowners to open public access and improve wildlife habitat.

Kentucky

$850,000 will fund agency efforts to create a new access program with a focus on dove fields and wetland easements.

Michigan

$1.6 million to expand the state’s Hunting Access Program (HAP), specifically to provide sharptail grouse and deer hunting opportunities.

Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS
Minnesota

$2.5 million to boost incentives for landowners to enroll in Minnesota’s Walk-In Access program.

Missouri

$2.23 million will go to the Missouri Outdoor Recreation Access Program (MRAP) for private landowners willing to allow access and improve wildlife habitat on their farm, ranch, and forest lands.

Montana

$1.89 million to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to provide more walk-in hunting access on previously inaccessible acres with high-quality game bird habitats.

Nebraska

$3 million to expand walk-in access and improve habitat on acreage within Nebraska’s Open Fields and Waters (OFW) program.

New Mexico

$1 million will go to the Santa Clara Pueblo Tribe to support access restoration and improved fishing opportunities on the Rio Grande.

Image courtesy of Russ Terry, Ducks Unlimited.
Ohio

$1.83 million will support the newly created Ohio Public Access for Wildlife (OPAW) program, opening acres to hunting, trapping, and wildlife viewing across the state.

Oklahoma

$3 million will support expansion of the Oklahoma Land Access Program (OLAP) near metropolitan areas and establish an online database of private acres open for access.

Oregon

$2.86 million will support expansion of existing public access programs and facilitate the reenrollment of access on expiring VPA-HIP acreage.

Pennsylvania

$668,361 will support fishing access via Pennsylvania’s Public Fishing Access and Conservation Easement Program.

South Carolina

$469,476 in funds will facilitate the growth of the state’s Public Waterfowl Lottery Hunts Program to support more duck blinds on private land.

South Dakota

$2.18 million will support expanded hunting opportunities as well as new access to state fisheries from across private lands.

Image courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Texas

$1.83 million will support the expansion of existing public hunting programs, increasing both available acreage and days. The funds will also increase maintenance capacity across state-leased fishing access sites.

Virginia

$2.998 million will facilitate growth of Virginia’s Public Access Lands for Sportsmen program and provide additional financial support to enrolled landowners seeking to improve wildlife habitat.

Washington

$2.74 million will build upon existing state recreational access programs and support habitat restoration on enrolled lands.

Wisconsin

$1.91 million will support wetland and grassland restoration in southern counties and support financial incentives for landowners to enroll acreage in the state’s Turkey Hunting Access Program.

Wyoming

$1.54 million will support enrollment and habitat restoration on acreage in the state’s Access Yes Program, plus other lands and habitat programs.

 

Is your state on the list? Leave us a comment if you use walk-in access programs where you live.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CHEERS TO CONSERVATION

Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.

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