Hunting is a healthy, traditional recreational use of renewable natural resources deeply rooted in America’s heritage, and it can be an important wildlife management tool. The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, other laws, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s policy permit hunting on a 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. However, habitat that normally supports healthy wildlife populations produces harvestable surpluses that are a renewable resource.
As practiced on refuges, hunting does not pose a threat to the wildlife populations – and in some instances it is necessary for sound wildlife management. For example, deer populations will often grow too large for the refuge habitat to support. If some 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 equilibrium between population levels and wildlife habitat.
The decision to permit hunting on national wildlife refuges is made on a case-by-case basis. Considerations include biological soundness, economic feasibility, effects on other refuge programs and public demand.