CHARLESTON, W.Va. – U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has opened new or expanded hunting and sport fishing opportunities across 2.1 million acres, including at the Ohio River Island National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia.
“This is exciting news for West Virginia, especially given our state’s cherished hunting and fishing tradition. Today’s announcement expands opportunities for sportsmen, while promoting conservation and a love of our wild and wonderful outdoors,” Ranking Member Capito said.
“West Virginia is home to incredible wildlife and breathtaking outdoors. Like many of my fellow West Virginians, I enjoy hunting and fishing in our wild and wonderful state. I am pleased the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has expanded hunting and fishing opportunities at the Ohio River Island National Wildlife Refuge. This expansion will allow more West Virginians and visitors the opportunity to enjoy our public lands, while continuing to preserve the area for generations to come. I will continue to advocate for sustainable growth of our hunting and fishing industries while also protecting West Virginia’s public lands,” Senator Manchin said.
The increased recreational access, which covers 88 National Wildlife Refuges and one National Fish Hatchery, is consistent with the America the Beautiful initiative, a locally led and voluntary, nationwide effort to conserve, connect, and restore 30% of lands and waters by 2030.
FWS manages hunting and fishing programs to ensure sustainable wildlife populations while also offering other wildlife-dependent recreation on public lands.
This final rule opens or expands 910 opportunities for hunting or fishing (an ‘opportunity’ is defined as one species on one field station). This final rule represents the most significant opening and expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities by FWS than ever before. The action brings the number of units in FWS’s National Wildlife Refuge System where the public may hunt to 434 and the number where fishing will be permitted to 378.
FWS finalized these changes in time for the upcoming 2021-2022 hunting seasons. A complete list of all refuges and hatcheries is available in the rule. Click here to view an online list.
In addition, this final rule continues efforts to revise refuge hunting and fishing regulations to align with state regulations where the refuge is located. This year’s rule also includes revisions that ensure whenever refuge regulations depart from state regulations, for safety or conservation compatibility reasons, these extra regulations are consistent across all refuges in the given state. FWS worked closely with the states in preparing this rule.
Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic activity in communities across the United States in 2016, according to the FWS’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years. More than 101 million Americans—40% of the U.S. population age 16 and older—pursue wildlife-related recreation, including hunting and fishing.
There are 70 national fish hatcheries visited by more than one million people each year. Hatcheries offer opportunities for viewing the operations and learning about fish, as well as activities such as fishing, hunting, hiking, sightseeing, nature study, birdwatching and photography. The rule also formally brings the total number of National Fish Hatchery System units open to hunting or sport fishing to 22.
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