Hunting and fishing expanded in Ohio wildlife areas

Oak Harbor, Ohio — For the first time in its history, Ohioans will be able to hunt whitetails at Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge.

At the same time, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Ohio will see expansion of gamebird hunting, small mammals, furbearers, migratory gamebird, and big game hunting, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the two refuges.

The added hunting opportunities in Ohio are part of U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s plan to open more than 251,000 acres to new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities at 30 national wildlife refuges across the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System. This will now bring the number of units where the public may hunt to 377, and the number where fishing is permitted to 312.

This will open more new acres to hunting and fishing than in the past and takes steps to simplify regulations to more closely match state hunting and fishing regulations. The final rule also outlines expanded hunting and fishing opportunities at 136 national wildlife refuges. The changes will be implemented in time for the upcoming 2018-2019 hunting seasons, according to the USFWS.

“American sportsmen and women contribute over a billion dollars a year to fund conservation. Without hunters and anglers, we wouldn’t be able to conserve wildlife and habitat. And, without access to our public lands like National Wildlife Refuges, many hunters would have nowhere to go,” Zinke said in a news release. “The last thing I want to see is hunting to become an elite sport, rather than a tradition passed on from generation to generation. Today’s announcement protects critical conservation funding, and ensures sportsmen have access to public lands for generations to come.”

Hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic activity in communities across the United States in 2016, according to the USFWS National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years. More than 101 million Americans – 40 percent of the U.S. population 16 and older – pursue wildlife-related recreation – hunting, fishing, and birding, among others.

“Hunting and fishing are family activities that pass down from generation to generation. National wildlife refuges provide all Americans with places to hunt, fish, observe the natural world firsthand, and experience the great outdoors,” said Cynthia Martinez, chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System. “We are pleased to be able to offer hunting and fishing opportunities and other recreational activities where they are compatible with national wildlife refuge management goals.”

The USFWS manages hunting and fishing programs to ensure sustainable wildlife populations while also offering other wildlife-dependent recreation on public lands, such as wildlife watching and photography. The refuge system is an unparalleled network of 566 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas.

More than 53 million Americans visit refuges every year. National wildlife refuges provide vital habitat for thousands of species and access to world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting, and boating to nature watching, photography, and environmental education. In doing so, they support regional economies to the tune of $2.4 billion per year and support more than 35,000 jobs.

Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the USFWS permits hunting and fishing along with four other types of wildlife-dependent recreation, including wildlife photography, environmental education, and wildlife observation and interpretation, when they are compatible with an individual refuge’s purpose and mission. Hunting, within specified limits, is currently permitted on 340 wildlife refuges and 37 wetland management districts. Fishing is currently permitted on 278 wildlife refuges and 34 wetland management districts, according to the USFWS.

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