A proposal by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has been approved that expands public land access for hunting and fishing at 90 national wildlife refuges across the country -- including here in Maine.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has approved a proposal that was drafted earlier this year. In summary, the goal of the proposal is "to expanded hunting and sport fishing opportunities for game species across 2.1 million acres, at 90 national wildlife refuges, and on the lands of one national fish hatchery." That national fish hatchery is here in Maine.

Federal officials formally opened lands to sport fishing at Green Lake National Fish Hatchery in Maine for the first time. Other expansions include:

  • Franklin Island National Wildlife Refuge: Open duck, light goose, dark goose, coot, sea duck, rail, snipe, and woodcock hunting, which opens migratory bird hunting for the first time.
  • Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge: Expand existing white-tailed deer, bear, moose, coyote, woodchuck, porcupine, squirrel, grouse, bobcat, hare, raccoon, skunk, snipe, woodcock, duck, sea duck, light goose, and dark goose hunting on new acres.
  • Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge: Expanding existing deer, bear, coyote, bobcat, raccoon, fox, hare, skunk, squirrel, woodchuck, porcupine, grouse, snipe, woodcock, sea duck, duck, light goose, dark goose, and rail hunting on new acres.
  • Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge: Extend season dates for existing groundhog and squirrel hunting.
  • Pond Island National Wildlife Refuge: Open duck, sea duck, coot, light goose, and dark goose hunting on new acres, which opens the refuge to migratory bird hunting for the first time.

Hunting on Refuge System lands can be a controversial topic. This is why the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has an entire section of its website dedicated to explaining why this is allowed. In short, "As practiced on refuges, hunting does not pose a threat to the wildlife populations – and in some instances, it is necessary for sound wildlife management. For example, deer populations will often grow too large for the refuge habitat to support. If some deer are not harvested, they destroy habitat for themselves and other animals and die from starvation or disease."

The Service finalized the proposed changes back in August. It's the largest expansion of hunting and fishing access on managed lands in the history of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

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