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Interior Department Wants To Open More Wildlife Refuges For Hunting And Fishing

The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah is on the list of places where hunting would be expanded.
The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah is on the list of places where hunting would be expanded.

The Interior Department wants to open up a quarter-million acres at national wildlife refuges for hunting and fishing.

The move would impact 21 states. In our region, it would expand hunting at a refuge in Utah  and another in Montana. It would also open Montana’s Swan River refuge to big game hunting for the first time.

John Gale is conservation director with the organization Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. It might sound counterintuitive to allow people to kill animals in places that are supposed to be a refuge for them, he says, “But hunting is a part of the North American model of conservation and hunting has strong connections to the creation of many wildlife refuges.”

Gale points out that hunting licenses and taxes on hunting equipment bring in millions of dollars to fund these sites. In its proposal, the Department of the Interior estimates that the expanded hunting opportunities would bring in another $700,000.

The public will have 30 days to comment on the proposal once it’s posted in the Federal Register.

As Montana Public Radio has reported, some are concerned about the costs the refuges will incur in order to initiate expanded hunting. Arlene Montgomery with Friends of the Wild Swan told MTPR that, in the case of Swan River refuge, it could cost $45,000.

Recent reporting by NPR found that Americans are shifting away from hunting and toward activities like hiking and birdwatching, and that the associated drop in revenue from hunting licenses and excise taxes is leading to a “crisis” for the country’s wildlife conservation system.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado. 

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