We have a huge jeer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has decimated the meaning of “refuge” with its decision to expand fishing and hunting opportunities on 13 refuges throughout the service’s National Wildlife Refuge System. And to add insult to injury, the agency made the disgusting announcement yesterday on World Animal Day.
We also have a huge thumbs down for director Dan Ashe, for once again embracing hunters before he leaves his position to become CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
The silver lining in his exit is that a new administration could do a better job at considering the non-hunting majority of Americans, as well as the ethical impacts of hunting and fishing in national wildlife refuges. We need someone in charge who is not oblivious to the fact that in 2011, only 33.1 million people fished and 13.7 million hunted, however a whopping 71.8 million participated in at least one type of wildlife-watching activity including observing, feeding, or photographing fish and other wildlife in the United States. And wildlife watchers contributed more to the economy than hunters and anglers. Wildlife watchers spent $54.9 billion on their activities around the home and on trips away from the home.
The USFWS’ awful final rule also modifies existing refuge-specific regulations on more than 70 other refuges and wetland management districts. This includes migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting and sport fishing.
In Colorado, hunting for elk will happen for the first time in designated areas of Baca National Wildlife refuge, and in expanded areas of Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge and Vista National Wildlife Refuge. It also includes sport fishing for the first time at Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota.
Friends of Animals and our supporters submitted comments on the proposed ruling back in August, and we are beyond disappointed that the agency is expanding hunting and fishing opportunities, directly harming the wildlife the refuges were intended to protect, disturbing other species and the natural ecosystem, and diminishing the ability of FoA members and Americans in general to enjoy these wild places.