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U.S. expands hunting and fishing at national wildlife refuges

The Associated Press BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Trump administration said Tuesday that it is expanding hunting and fishing in 77 national wildlife refuges in a move that critics contend is deferring management to states and could harm wildlife.

The Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said hunters and anglers can shoot and cast their rods on 5,700 square kilometers of federally protected land in 37 states, much of which is considered critical habitat for waterfowl and other birds to rest and refuel during their migration.

“This is the largest single effort to expand hunting and fishing access in recent history,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said last month before the changes were posted Tuesday in the Federal Register. It’s the latest effort by the Trump administration to open public lands to recreation and industry, including oil and gas drilling, which critics say comes at the expense of the environment and wildlife.

President Donald Trump also has scaled back two sprawling national monuments in Utah, a move that opened the lands that were cut to potential drilling and mining. New plans for the monuments allow more grazing and recreation. 

Hunting and fishing will be allowed at seven national wildlife refuges for the first time and expanded at 70 others. The agency, which also now permits it at 15 national fish hatcheries, said some 5,000 regulations have been eliminated or simplified to match state rules.

Conservationists said the changes went into effect without adequate environmental review.

“While the Trump policy retains federal ownership, it basically eviscerates federal management,” said Jeff Ruch of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “The states end up managing federal land with federal dollars but following state laws. That’s a sea change from federal management for conservation and biodiversity rather than promoting hunting.”

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