A proposal from the U.S. Department of the Interior seeks to expand hunting and fishing access in fish hatcheries and on wildlife refuges nationwide, including one in Idaho.
According to a news release, Interior Sec. David Bernhardt on Wednesday announced the plan, which would increase the number of fish hatcheries where public fishing is allowed from 312 to 316. It also would increase the number of wildlife refuges that allow hunting from 377 to 382. Overall, the proposal would add 1.4 million acres of public land access, the release said.
Additionally, the proposal would extend some hunting and fishing seasons or add seasons for additional game animals. Only one Idaho property would be affected by the plan.
If approved, the proposal would allow elk hunting on 300 acres at the Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge in south-central Idaho. Currently, hunters can only take rabbits, waterfowl and upland game birds at the refuge. The plan would also extend the boating season at the refuge, where sport fishing is already allowed. Details on the extension were not included in Wednesday’s release.
According to the department, the proposal also would streamline hunting and fishing rules at refuges and hatcheries across the country.
“Well-managed hunting and fishing are the backbone of conservation in this country, but inconsistent or overly complex regulations can act as a disincentive,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service principal deputy director Margaret Everson in the news release. “By aligning our refuge regulations with our state partners, we are reducing confusion and the regulatory burden on the American public, helping ensure the tradition and benefits of hunting and fishing can continue.”
The proposal would expand sport fishing and waterfowl hunting opportunities at refuges and hatcheries in neighboring states, including Oregon, Washington and Montana, as well as increased big game hunting opportunities in Wyoming. Find a full list of refuges and fisheries included in the proposal at fws.gov.
The Department of the Interior will accept public comment on the proposal for 45 days following a notice to be published in the Federal Register. Comments can be submitted online at regulations.gov. An interim copy of the proposed rule is available online.
Idaho has seven wildlife refuges. Hunting is allowed in some capacity at each of them.