‘Tone-deaf’: Environmentalists slam Trump’s plan to open 2.3m acres of wildlife refuges for hunting

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The Trump administration has been declared “tone-deaf” for unveiling a plan to open 2.3m acres of land at wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries for hunting and fishing amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Department of the Interior proposal earlier this week includes dozens of firsts for the hunting of a long list of wild animals including deer, bears, elk and mountain lions along with migratory birds on public lands across the US. The new rules also include a series of expansions for hunting and fishing.

‘Tone-deaf’: Environmentalists slam Trump’s plan to open 2.3m acres of wildlife refuges for hunting

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said: “America’s hunters and anglers now have something significant to look forward to in the fall as we plan to open and expand hunting and fishing opportunities across more acreage nationwide than the entire state of Delaware.”

Western Values Project director Jayson O’Neill said the announcement came while the Trump administration had ignored calls for help fighting the coronavirus by state and local officials.

Mr O’Neill said: “Instead of responding to pleas by state and local officials for needed agency resources, assistance, and help during this generational pandemic, Secretary Bernhardt made a tone-deaf announcement that by no means could ever make up for the hunting opportunities and wildlife lost as a result of Trump’s deregulatory agenda decimating our public lands and environmental protections.”

The proposal is aimed at giving Americans more recreational access on public lands at more than 100 national wildlife refuges.

A dozen refuges have proposed big game hunting for the first time including for white-tailed deer at Seatuck National Wildlife Refuge in New York and for mule and black-tailed deer, elk and wild turkey at Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery in Washington.Hunters would be able to go after bears for the first time at Jordan River National Fish Hatchery in Michigan and in Washington at the Little White Salmon and Spring Creek National Fish Hatcheries.

In Arizona, mountain lions and mule deer would be fair game at Cabeza Prieta along with bobcats, fox, and mountain lions at Buenos Aires, both national wildlife refuges.

In Georgia, open alligator hunting would be allowed at Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Migratory bird hunting is proposed for the first time at Wapato Lake and Hart Mountain national wildlife refuges in Oregon; Leslie Canyon and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuges in Arizona; Indiana’s Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge; Minnesota’s Rydell National Wildlife Refuge and at Fallon National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada, among other expansions.

Sport fishing is proposed for the first time at a dozen refuges from California to Maine.

Citizens have 60 days to comment on the proposal, listed in full here.

In a letter last month, governors and mayors from across the US asked the Trump administration for a formal pause “for all open public comment periods concerning both active rulemakings and non-rulemaking notices across every federal department or agency” due to the coronavirus outbreak raging across the US.

Conservation organisation, Ducks Unlimited, tweeted their praise for the proposal.

“It’s vital to follow local directives, but there’s never been a better time to enjoy the solitude of our public lands & distance yourself from the crowds. This access will be important for our overall health & wellness both now & in the future,” said CEO Adam Putnam.

This article was first published by The Independent on 10 April 2020.

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