Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to open or expand hunting and fishing recreational activities in 10 natural wildlife refuges, his agency announced Wednesday.
"These ten refuges will provide incredible opportunities for sportsmen and anglers across the country to access the land and connect with the wildlife," Zinke said in a statement.
One of Zinke's top priorities is to increase hunting and fishing access on public lands. "If finalized, this would bring the number of refuges where the public may hunt up to 373, and up to 312 where fishing would be permitted," according to DOI.
The Interior Department's proposal seeks to expand or open these activities at the Savannah River National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia and South Carolina, the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota, the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge and the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota, the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, the Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge and Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, and the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge and Fox River National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.
"As the steward of our public lands, one of my top priorities is to open up access wherever possible for hunting and fishing so that more families have the opportunity to pass down the heritage," Zinke said. "The last thing I want to see is hunting and fishing become elite sports."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is allowing a 30-day public comment period on the proposal.
Zinke also announced on Wednesday that DOI, through the Bureau of Land Management, is on the verge of finalizing a consideration process to accept 3,595 acres of donated land in New Mexico. The land is adjacent to Sabinoso Wilderness.
"I originally had concerns about adding more wilderness-designated area, however after hiking and riding the land it was clear that access would only be improved if the Department accepted the land and maintained the existing roadways," said the secretary, following a trip to New Mexico. "Thanks to the donation of a private organization, we continue to move toward delivering this nonpartisan win for sportsmen and the community."