Hunting, trapping and fishing are considered by many to be a legitimate, traditional recreational use of renewable natural resources. The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, other laws, and the Fish and Wildlife Service's policy permit hunting on a national wildlife refuge when it is compatible with the purposes for which the refuge was established and acquired.

National wildlife refuges exist primarily to safeguard wildlife populations through habitat preservation. The word "refuge" includes the idea of providing a haven of safety for wildlife, and as such, hunting might seem an inconsistent use of the National Wildlife Refuge System (Refuge System). However, habitat that normally supports healthy wildlife populations produces harvestable surpluses that are a renewable resource.

As practiced on refuges, hunting, trapping and fishing do not pose a threat to the wildlife populations, and in some instances, are actually necessary for sound wildlife management. For example, deer populations will often grow too large for the refuge habitat to support. If some of the deer are not harvested, they destroy habitat for themselves and other animals and die from starvation or disease. The harvesting of wildlife on refuges is carefully regulated to ensure an equilibrium between population levels and wildlife habitat.

The decision to permit hunting, trapping and fishing on national wildlife refuges is made on a case-by-case basis that considers biological soundness, economic feasibility, effects on other refuge programs, and public demand.

Where Can I Find Information about the National Surveys of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation?

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Federal Aid Program funds a variety of surveys to assess the status and trends of wildlife recreation in the United States. You can visit the Federal Aid web pages to obtain further information on their programs.