Three national wildlife refuges in the Great Lakes region will expand hunting opportunities and two more will open to hunting for the first time, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge and Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois and thePatoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area in Indiana will expand migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting.
The ones opening hunting for the first time are Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge in New York for big game hunting, and Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania for migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting.
Hunting and wildlife observation is a big economic boost to the local area, said Bill McCory, the manager of Indiana’s 7,398-acre Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge.
A lot of money is spent locally on hunting licenses, guns, clothes, tackle, bait and more.
Aside from monetary benefits from opening and expanding hunting and fishing at refuges, there are also highly valued recreational opportunities for visitors.
Jeremy Ross, a longtime hunter from the area, was a Patoka visitor even before it became a refuge. He is now on the board of directors for the Friends of the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge.
Opening the land gives that many more people the opportunity to go out and experience nature and fulfill their love of whatever they want to pursue outdoors, said Ross.
Nationwide, 20 refuges in total are offering expanded hunting, and six are offering it for the first time.
Dan Ashe, director of the Fish & Wildlife Service, said that hunters and anglers economic contributions are also a big help in restoring habitat and financing conservation throughout the refuge system.
Hunters and anglers have paid more than $15 billion in excise taxes — used by state wildlife agencies to sustain and restore habitat, educate the next generation of hunters and fund sport shooting ranges nationwide, Ashe said in a blog post.
And Ashe says that there are no intentions to stop the growth of the national wildlife refuges anytime soon.
We are committed to strengthening and expanding hunting opportunities on our national wildlife refuges wherever possible, Ashe wrote.
The National Wildlife System is composed of 560 refuges that encompass 150 million acres of land and water throughout the United States.