Hunting would be expanded only to newly acquired acreage at Rachel Carson, Moosehorn and Umbagog.

Planned expansion of hunting at three national wildlife refuges in Maine would occur only on recent land acquisitions, not on acreage where hunting now is prohibited.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released details Tuesday of proposed regulation changes that would allow more hunting opportunities at 30 wildlife refuges across the United States, including the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in York and Cumberland counties, the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Washington County and the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, which straddles the New Hampshire-Maine border.

All three currently allow sport fishing and big-game hunting, as well as hunting for upland birds and waterfowl. The proposed regulations also would add wild turkey to the huntable species at the Umbagog refuge.

The department’s proposal would affect 90 new acres in York at the Rachel Carson refuge, 747 new acres at Moosehorn and 5,542 new acres at the Umbagog refuge, said Amy Lavoie, assistant refuge supervisor for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast Region.

The Rachel Carson refuge – which stretches from Kittery to Cape Elizabeth – encompasses 5,578 acres and currently allows hunting on 4,077 acres. The Umbagog refuge encompasses 36,957 acres, with 20,371 currently open to hunting. And the Moosehorn refuge covers 29,618 acres, with 27,492 acres open to hunting, Lavoie said.

The proposed regulations, if adopted, would bring an estimated $17,900 in increased economic activity to the York region, an estimated $239,700 in economic activity around the Umbagog refuge and an additional $1,000 in Washington County, according to the service.

The proposed rules posted on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website Tuesday will be open for public comment until June 28.

At the Rachel Carson refuge, hunters can request one of 500 permits available annually. The number of permits will not increase under the proposed regulations.

Rachel Carson Wildlife biologist Kate O’Brien said the refuge’s permits typically don’t sell out.

Hunting has already been allowed on the 90-acre parcel acquired by the refuge last year, which abuts land owned by the York Land Trust, but it’s good to have hunting officially written into refuge regulations, O’Brien said.

“As the rapidly developing coastline changes it has become harder for people to find areas to bird, hunt and fish,” O’Brien said.

Gary Green with the Springvale Fish and Game Club doesn’t hunt on Rachel Carson land, but he was delighted to hear more land in York County might be open to hunting. Green said southern Maine has become heavily developed since he began hunting there in 1965, and hunting grounds have decreased.

“I think of Rachel Carson as the Wells coast. I didn’t realize it stretched all the way to Route 91 in (the town of) York,” Green said. “I used to hunt off Route 91 in the mid-1970s and that was a happy place for me. We hunters have all experienced the diminishing hunting grounds and urban sprawl. And that’s disappointing. This is a good thing. That land is a natural habitat for the deer. In there, they have protection and a water supply and plenty of food, and a diversity of forestland.”

Joe Anderson with the York Land Trust agreed the thick woods in the 90 acres in Rachel Carson have plenty of wildlife and offer open land to hunters.

“A lot of wildlife passes through there. Typically bird hunters use the field in our preserve, but in those woods it’s a different kind of hunting, it’s different habitat,” said Anderson, the land trust’s stewardship director. “All our land is open to hunting. We’ve been pretty active meeting with the York Fish and Game Club to show them how we manage our land and to talk about land that’s suitable to hunting.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: FlemingPph

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