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Journal Tribune
Posted
Updated November 10
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Interior Department wants to expand hunting and fishing on 3 wildlife refuges in Maine

Suzanne Ewing cuts the ribbon commemorating the opening of a new spur of the Timber Point trail on June 3, 2016, in this file photo. Rachel Carson is one of the areas where the Trump Administration would like to expand hunting. JOURNAL TRIBUNE/File Photo

The Trump Administration wants to expand access to hunting and fishing on 30 national wildlife refuges, including three in Maine.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Monday a proposal that would open up nearly 250,000 acres to new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities.

In Maine, the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in York and Cumberland counties would expand existing white-tailed deer and wild turkey hunting, and the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Washington County would expand existing migratory game bird, upland game and big-game hunting, such as moose and deer.

Additionally, the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, which straddles the New Hampshire/Maine border, would open to wild turkey hunting for the first time and would expand existing migratory game bird, upland game and big-game hunting.

In each instance, hunting already is allowed in certain areas. This rule would expand those areas.

“As stewards of our public lands, Interior is committed to opening access wherever possible for hunting and fishing so that more families have the opportunity to pass down this American heritage,” Zinke said in a statement. “These 30 refuges will provide incredible opportunities for American sportsmen and women across the country to access the land and connect with wildlife.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Interior Department agency that oversees the country’s refuges, will seek public comments on the proposed rule for 30 days. The notice will be available online at www.regulations.gov, under docket number FWS-HQ-NWRS-2018-0020.

Presently, hunting is permitted on 337 wildlife refuges and fishing is allowed on 277 wildlife refuges.

Zinke said he hoped the changes would be implemented before the 2018-19 hunting seasons and he framed the change in economic terms. Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic activity in the U.S. in 2016, according to the Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

National wildlife refuges are government protected lands where experts monitor and conserve various species of fish, wildlife and plants. The system was created in 1903 and now includes more than 550 sites covering 150 million acres.

Maine has six refuges. The others are: Maine Coastal Islands in Milbridge, Sunkhaze Meadows in Baring, and the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge in Limestone near the Canadian border.

The Rachel Carson refuge, named after the famed conservationist and nature writer, was established in 1966 to protect salt marshes and tidal estuaries, a habitat for migratory birds. The area stretches from Kittery to Cape Elizabeth and encompasses about 14,000 acres.

The Moosehorn refuge, totaling 30,000 acres in rural Washington County, was established in 1937 to protect wetlands that serve as a habitat for migratory birds and other endangered species.

And Lake Umbagog has been established since 1922 as a wetland preserve that is home to many migratory birds.

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