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Hunting, fishing access adds opportunities

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    Many of the federal lands recently added as open for public hunting include a wealth of duck hunting opportunities. Although those lands aren’t located in Pennsylvania, those who like to hunt out of state could find expanded opportunities for “do-it-yourself” public land hunting. LISA PRICE/TIMES NEWS

Published June 15. 2019 12:15AM

You may have seen the announcement last week – U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced that hunting and fishing opportunities would be created or expanded at 74 national wildlife refuges and 15 national fish hatcheries, which are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It means that an additional 1.4 million acres will be available for use by you.

The proposal would increase the number of units in the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System open for public hunting from 377 to 382, and the number where fishing would be permitted from 312 to 316. In the National Fish Hatchery System, the proposal would open properties not only to sport fishing, but also to public hunting on the hatcheries’ lands.

What’s that mean for local hunters? Well, not a lot, for those who hunt and fish within the state. There are two national fish hatcheries in Pennsylvania, in Lamar and Allegheny – neither is on the list. But if you like to travel to hunt and fish, and prefer the “do it yourself” style rather than guided hunts, the opportunities are widespread and intriguing.

Here’s a look at locations:

Wisconsin – The Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge open to hunting and fishing for the first time. Also, the opening of sport fishing on the Iron River National Fish Hatchery, along with migratory game birds, upland game and big game hunting.

Wyoming – The Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, open to deer and elk hunting for the first time.

Florida – The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, to existing upland and big game hunting.

Illinois and Missouri – The Great River National Wildlife Refuge, the expansion of season dates, times and methods for existing deer, turkey and upland game hunting, to align with state seasons.

Colorado – Opening of lands on Leadville National Fish Hatchery to migratory game bird, upland game and big game hunting.

Texas – Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery, open to sport fishing.

Washington – Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery, open to sport fishing.

The proposal also outlines a comprehensive revision and simplification of all refuge-specific hunting and fishing regulations in all 50 states to more closely match state regulations while continuing to ensure safe and compatible opportunities. The Service worked closely with the states in preparing the proposed rule.

“Hunting and fishing are more than just traditional pastimes as they are also vital to the conservation of our lands and waters, our outdoor recreation economy, and our American way of life,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said. “These refuges and hatcheries provide incredible opportunities for sportsmen and women and their families across the country to pass on a fishing and hunting heritage to future generations and connect with wildlife.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service will seek comments from the public for 45 days regarding the plan.

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