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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes more opportunities to hunt, fish across South Atlantic, Gulf and Mississippi Basin

Atlanta, Georgia — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to expand hunting and fishing opportunities on another 500,000 acres of national wildlife refuge lands across the South. If approved, the new regulations will take effect this fall.

In all, 22 refuges will offer more than 110 new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities — new species to hunt, more acres to hunt and more times to hunt.

“We continue to build upon our recent successes to expand our recreational offerings,” said Leo Miranda, an avid hunter and regional director for the South Atlantic-Gulf & Mississippi Basin. “Hunting and fishing are intrinsically Southern ways of life that also further our conservation work and boost local economies.”

Last month, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced new and expanded hunting and fishing opportunities across more than 2.3 million acres nationwide — the single largest expansion in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service history.

One-fourth of the newly opened lands would be in the South. Last year, the region added 125,000 acres of hunting and fishing opportunities at refuges and hatcheries. Each year, the Service further streamlines regulations to more closely align hunting and fishing regulations with the states.

“The announcement from Secretary Bernhardt was the result of years of collaboration and hard work between the progressive leadership of the Service, state agencies, and the conservation NGO community,” said Chuck Sykes, director of Alabama’s Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Division.

The Service, for example, proposes opening an additional 102,455 acres at the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee refuge in south Florida for sport fishing, as well as duck and coot hunting.

At Dahomey refuge in Mississippi, the Service proposes new hunting opportunities for upland game and migratory birds, and a new dove season.

“Now more than ever, we need to be enhancing access to our wonderful natural resources,” said Sykes who’s also president of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “I certainly hope we use these monumental accomplishments to offer more opportunities in the future.”

The Service is seeking comments from the public on the proposed rule. The notice is available at regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-NWRS-2020-0013, and will include details on how to submit comments.

The Department intends to finalize the proposed changes in time for the upcoming 2020-2021 hunting seasons. See the list of refuge and hatchery opportunities in the South in the table below.

Refuge Description State
Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge Expand season dates and hours for existing dove, duck and goose hunting on acres already open to other hunting. Alabama, Georgia
Overflow National Wildlife Refuge Open woodcock hunting on acres already open to other hunting. Arkansas
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Expand white-tailed deer and incidental take of feral hogs on new acres and existing acres, and expand migratory bird hunting and sport fishing to new acres. Florida
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge Expand existing upland game and big game hunting to new acres, and expand method of take for existing upland game and big game hunting. Florida
St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge Expand method of take for existing upland game and big game hunting. Florida
Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge Open migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting, and sport fishing to align with state regulations. Florida
Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge Open alligator hunting for the first time. Georgia
Savannah National Wildlife Refuge Open alligator hunting in South Carolina and alligator, armadillo, beaver, opossum and raccoon hunting on acres already open to other hunting in Georgia. Georgia, South Carolina
Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge Open beaver, bobcat, fox, skunk, otter, muskrat, mink and weasel hunting on acres already open to other hunting. Kentucky
Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge Open raccoon hunting on acres already open to other hunting, and expand season dates and hours for migratory bird and squirrel hunting. Louisiana
Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge Expand method of take for existing white-tailed deer hunting. Louisiana
Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge Open woodcock hunting on acres already open to other hunting. Louisiana
Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge Open coyote, beaver, opossum and skunk hunting on acres already open to other hunting and expand season dates for raccoon. Louisiana
Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge Expand season dates for existing goose, squirrel, feral hog and wild turkey hunting. Louisiana, Mississippi
Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge Open rail, coyote and beaver hunting on acres already open to other hunting. Mississippi
Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge Open dove, rail, coyote, beaver and nutria hunting on acres already open to other hunting. Mississippi
Tallahatchie National Wildlife Refuge Open dove, rail, coyote, beaver and nutria hunting on acres already open to other hunting. Mississippi
Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge Expand season dates for existing teal hunting on acres already open to other hunting. North Carolina
Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge Expand season dates for existing migratory bird hunting to align with state regulations for youth. North Carolina
Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge Expand season dates for existing teal hunting on acres already open to other hunting. North Carolina
Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge Open incidental take of coyote hunting on acres already open to other hunting. South Carolina
Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge Open dove, crow and opossum to hunting on acres already open to other hunting, expand season dates for squirrel and white-tailed deer hunting, and expand existing goose hunting to new acres. Tennessee

Contacts

Dan Chapman, public affairs specialist
daniel_chapman@fws.gov, (404) 245-7211

Mark Davis, public affairs specialist
mark_r_davis@fws.gov, (404) 556-7074

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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