The expansion will offer more than 1.4 million additional acres to sportsmen.
Earlier this week, the Trump administration's efforts to increase recreational access to public lands continued, as the Interior Department announced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be expanding hunting and fishing into 77 different wildlife refuges across 37 states. The total area comes out to about 1.4 million acres, or 2,200 square miles.
The decision didn't get far ahead of the stampede of critics, who say the move will greatly hurt wildlife in the long run. Those in support of the decision, however, believe the increase in access to federally protected lands will motivate more people to fish and hunt, which ultimately funds wildlife conservation.
"This is the largest single effort to expand hunting and fishing access in recent history," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. "President Trump has made increasing public access and streamlining government functions priorities of his administration, and this new rule delivers on both fronts given the unprecedented expansion of public acreage and removal or revision of 5,000 hunting and fishing regulations to more closely match state laws. This is a big win for sportsmen and women across the country and our collective conservation efforts."
As a whole, this expansion more than doubles the protected acreage that has opened or expanded over the last five years combined.
In addition to the 77 wildlife refuges, the USFWS will incorporate 15 hatcheries of the National Fish Hatchery System in the new policy.
"We are pleased to offer all Americans access to hunting and fishing opportunities and other recreational activities on refuge and hatchery lands where they are compatible with our conservation management goals," said USFWS Principal Deputy Director Margaret Everson. "This generations-old heritage of hunting and fishing is all about loving outdoor traditions and time spent with family."
Some of the more notable added opportunities include sport fishing at Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania, elk hunting at Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge in Idaho and migratory game bird hunting at Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming.
Expansions of refuge opportunities include additional sport fishing areas at Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge in Ohio, waterfowl, crane and tundra swan hunting at Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Montana, and the extension of existing hunting season dates for migratory game birds.
Noteworthy regulation changes at the hatcheries include the introduction of sport fishing to Edenton National Fish Hatchery in North Carolina and Valley City National Fish Hatchery in North Dakota. Also, land has been opened on Dexter National Fish Hatchery in New Mexico to migratory and upland bird hunting.
The policy also includes a simplified, comprehensive revision of federal regulations in regards to hunting and fishing on refuges.