New rules announced by the Trump administration Wednesday will allow for hunting with muzzleloaders and archery weapons at the Havasu and Bill Williams national wildlife refuges. The rules also call for extended hunting hours on refuge land.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is considering allowing “incidental hunting” of feral pigs within the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge.
Refuge Manager Richard Meyers said the concept of incidental hunting would allow hunters to take feral pigs if they come across the animals while hunting something else, such as ducks.
The Trump administration on Wednesday proposed opening up more federally protected land for hunting and fishing in what it called a major expansion of those activities in the nation’s wildlife refuges.
The plan affects 1.4 million acres on federal public lands, including 74 national wildlife refuges, U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said.
The proposal would allow hunting and fishing for the first time at 15 national fish hatcheries. The department also wants to revise hunting and fishing rules at refuges in all states to more closely match state regulations.
For Pintail Slough at the Havasu Refuge, that means hunters can stay out for two hours longer than usual, according to Meyers. The geese that live on the land learned to stay hidden until the afternoon, once all the hunters had left, he said. With the new opportunities announced, hunters will have an expanded window of opportunity to take more game.
The new opportunities, as announced by the Trump administration, included expanded “method of take for existing migratory game bird hunting and upland game hunting to further align with state regulations” for Bill Williams River, and expanded hours and season date ranges for Havasu.
The expanded “methods of take” would include hunting using archery and muzzleloaders, according to Meyers.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows the hunting of “mourning and white-winged dove, duck, coot, moorhen, goose, common snipe, quail, cottontail rabbit, and desert bighorn sheep on designated areas of the refuge.” All other species are prohibited.
They are also in the preliminary phases of exploring the addition of more species for hunting in the Bill Williams River area, including javelina.
Interior Department land managers were told last September to review hunting and fishing regulations to determine where they conflict with state regulations, with a goal of deferring to state management unless they clash with federal law.
A comprehensive review of federal and state rules is something that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had never been done before, Bernhardt said.
“It’s a dramatic statement about our commitment to access,” Bernhardt said, adding: “The goal is to get more people out.”
Lack of access to hunting and fishing sites is one of the most common reasons people don’t begin those activities, Bernhardt said.
The expansion is the largest proposed by the administration to date, Bernhardt said.
The plan is to finalize the proposal by September after public comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.