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Hunt-fish Rule proposal, a mixed bag for sportsmen and women

Hunt-fish Rule proposal, a mixed bag for sportsmen and women

By Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the proposal of the 2022-2023 Hunt Fish Rule, an effort to increase hunting and fishing opportunities within the National Wildlife Refuge System.

While the proposal seeks to expand access across 54,000 acres nationwide, the proposed rule takes a step backward as it relates to allowable method of take by limiting the usage of lead ammo and fishing tackle on nine refuges beginning in 2026.

Why it matters: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the top federal agency dedicated to conserving our nation’s fish, wildlife, and their associated habitats. The Service also supports more than 2.4 million hunting related visits and 7.3 million fishing visits annually, marking the Service one of the most important federal land management agencies for sportsmen and women. The expansion of access to 54,000 acres bolsters opportunities for America’s sportsmen and women, however, counteracting this expansion is a proposal to limit to use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on certain refuges effective in 2026.

On June 8, through the 2022-2023 Hunt Fish Rule, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a proposal to expand hunting and fishing opportunities across 54,000 acres of land and water managed by FWS, a move applauded by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

Unfortunately, the proposal takes a step backwards by seeking to prohibit the use of lead ammo and tackle on nine select refuges to be effective in 2026.

The National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) annually supports roughly 2.5 million hunting days and nearly7.5 million fishing days. As priority public uses, expanding hunting and fishing opportunities across 54,000 acres through this proposal is not only consistent with the intent of Congress and the refuge system itself, but also recognizes the importance of America’s sportsmen and women. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation appreciates the continued commitment by the Biden-Harris Administration to expand hunting and fishing acreage within the NWRS as part of the Hunt Fish Rule effort.

Unfortunately, the 2022-2023 Hunt Fish Rule seeks to phase out the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle across nine specific refuges, to be effective in the fall of 2026. While this proposal only phases out lead ammo and tackle for the hunting and fishing opportunities expanded as part of this rule within those nine identified refuges, CSF remains concerned about the potential precedent this may set for future refuge management decisions.

CSF maintains that FWS’ decisions to limit the use of lead ammo and fishing tackle should be rooted in definitive science that clearly shows a population level impact on fish and wildlife and should not be based on unfounded conclusions.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation welcomes the FWS effort to expand hunting and fishing access across 54,000 acres of land and water within the National Wildlife Refuge System. However, we are concerned about the lack of foundational, indisputable science which determines that the use of lead ammo and fishing tackle is causing population level impacts on fish and wildlife within the refuge system.

Find information on the proposed rule here.

A summary of the proposed lead ammunition and fishing tackle bans can be found here.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation mission is to work with Congress, governors and state legislatures to protect and advance hunting, fishing, recreational shooting and trapping.

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