Hunting and Fishing

2020 Final Hunting and Fishing Plan

The Fish and Wildlife Service has released a final hunting and fishing plan for the National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) in Rhode Island.

A draft plan was issued earlier this spring, and during the 85-day public comment period, 1,641 comments and two petitions were received from the public. We are grateful to the many people who provided meaningful comments on the draft, which helped in developing the final plan.  

Many comments reflected an opposition to hunting and fishing in general and in particular on NWR lands. We understand and respect this viewpoint.  The legislation which guides how national wildlife refuges across the country are managed not only requires us to consider allowing wildlife observation, hunting, fishing, photography, environmental education, and interpretation, but further directs us to promote these activities when compatible with refuge purposes.

Not one of these recreational uses have a priority over another – they are simply different ways people choose to enjoy the refuges and to engage themselves, their families, and their friends in the outdoors.

After reviewing the public comments, we have changed some things from the draft plan, and some things stayed the same. What has not changed is our commitment to provide a safe opportunity to enjoy the national wildlife refuges in Rhode Island, your national wildlife refuges. Whether it is an existing or new hunting or fishing venture, the Service will monitor these activities and adjust as necessary.

At the Block Island NWR, existing hunting activities, which have been ongoing for many years, will continue and expand.  The season dates will reflect a ban on weekend hunting which the town of New Shoreham desires, and we will continue to encourage hunters to register with the Police Chief when arriving to hunt.  Helping control deer populations will likely aide in combating Lyme disease and other tick-borne related issues on the island.

At Ninigret NWR, existing hunting activities including mentored deer hunts for youth and disabled veterans will continue and expand. The abundant deer population is exerting high pressure on our native vegetation, allowing non-native species a chance to gain foothold, altering forest regeneration, and making it difficult to complete restoration.  Controlling deer populations will help the overall health of natural systems.

Several public comments addressed hunting on the John H. Chafee NWR. Based on information learned from the comments, the Service has dropped the proposal to create a parking lot off Crest Avenue, and will pursue other access means in the future as needed.

Others expressed concern with hunting in the Mumford Unit, located near an elementary school and the William O’Neil bike path.  Here too, the Service decided to delete this unit from the hunting plan to foster continued environmental education activities in the area and for public safety. No hunting will be allowed in this area.

Deer hunting within the Town of Narragansett will be limited to archery only, rather than allowing both firearms and archery. Waterfowl hunting, and fishing on the Narrow River will be allowed as originally proposed.

In their water quality management plan for the Narrow River, the State recommends control of goose populations to help abate water pollution. Continuing the long tradition of waterfowl hunting here by allowing this recreational pursuit on refuge lands may help meet State goals.

At Trustom Pond NWR, no hunting will be allowed on the Trustom Pond water body itself. Waterfowl hunting will only be allowed where it always has been - on field 1, which lies East of the main refuge land base.  Archery hunting for deer will be allowed, but limited by the number of permits granted. All archers must not only carry a state hunting license (which requires a hunter education course) but also must show proficiency in the use of archery equipment. No hunting will be allowed within 200 feet of a dwelling or within 100 feet of a public trail. We are confident that this activity can be accommodated safely and with minimal conflicts with other users.

Like Ninigret NWR, the abundant deer population at Trustom Pond NWR is exerting high pressure on native vegetation, allowing non-native species to gain a foothold, influencing forest health, and hampering restoration.  Controlling deer populations will help the overall health of natural systems we all depend on.

At Sachuest Point NWR, no firearms will be allowed and there will be no general hunting season open to the public. During the short (three to five day) special mentored deer hunt, only archery will be allowed. In addition, the hunting area has been reduced to exclude all areas near the town beaches, campground, and the salt marsh.  The mentored hunt will not occur every year.

Yes, we did hear the many people who were not in favor of allowing this use at Sachuest Point NWR.  These types of mentored hunts are very short term, provide people the chance to engage in the outdoors in a way that they choose to, and gives them an opportunity which they might not otherwise have without a special program like this.

The hunting opportunities we provide at Ninigret NWR for youth and their families and for disabled veterans are very popular, and in the case of veterans, provides us the opportunity to give something back for their service.  Why offer this at Sachuest Point NWR?  Because the wide and gentle trail systems allow better access for those who may be physically challenged, the openness of the terrain, and the opportunity to engage people from a wider array of communities.   You will not hear gunshots, and you won’t be at Sachuest when hunting occurs – as the refuge will be closed during the 3 - 5 day hunt for safety.

Your opportunity to enjoy seeing deer, hear the song of many birds, capture that great photograph, and experience all of the other wildlife species found on national wildlife refuges will continue. The hunting program isn’t going to harm the overall population of any wildlife species on the refuges – it would not be allowed if it did.

Hunting and fishing activities occur on dozens of national wildlife refuges across the nation. Harvesting wild fish and wild game, if hunters and anglers are lucky, is an important benefit valued by many. Our plan is about sharing these lands with others, even though some may not agree with how others choose to enjoy the natural environment. These lands are for every citizen’s use, for all Americans, not just a few.

We have heard and understand the issues raised by the public on the draft plan, and will keep them in mind as we move forward. You will find our answers to the public comments received in the documents below.

Final Hunt Documents: 

All files are in .pdf format. You may need to download the files to your device before opening for viewing. 

Final Rhode Island NWR Complex Hunting and Fishing Plan
Appendix A - Hunting Compatibility Determinations
Appendix B - Fishing Compatibility Determinations
Appendix C - Environmental Assessment
Appendix D - Intra-Service Section 7 Biological Evaluation Form
Appendix E - Summary of Public Comments 
Appendix F - Finding of No Significant Impact

Refuge Specific Hunting and Fishing Summaries

Block Island National Wildlife Refuge Summary

John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge Summary 

Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge Summary

Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge Summary

Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge Summary

For more information, you can contact the refuge at (401) 364-9124.