Federal government moves forward with hunting restrictions

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has draft hunting guidelines on-deck that could expand where lead ammunition and fishing tackle is banned. The guidelines are a result of a 2022 settlement between the Biden administration and the Center for Biological Diversity, which sued the federal government over Trump’s expansion of hunting and fishing on 2.3 million acres across 147 wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries, according to Fox News. As part of the settlement, FWS “promised to expand lead ammunition prohibitions across various refuges” as soon as 2026 as part of the agency’s 2023-2024 annual rule, which will be proposed later this month. The 2022-2023 rule only expanded the lead ammo ban throughout the Patoka National Wildlife Refuge in southern Indiana.

“Every year, there’s a hunt and fish rule that comes out at the end of the season,” said Benjamin Cassidy, the executive vice president for international government and public affairs at Safari Club International and a former senior Interior Department official. “When I was in the [Trump] administration, these were big packages to celebrate opening of access, expanding opportunities for access.”

“Since this administration’s been in, the numbers have shrunk every year to lower numbers. It’s really just kind of been masking tape over what's really been bans,” continued Cassidy. “We’ve seen millions of acres closed and we've seen lead bans being put in place.”

Along with the expanded lead ammo prohibition, the Biden administration also plans to ban recreational shooting on 94,900 acres of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service lands. Those against these decisions say they are a personal attack against hunters, anglers and trappers.

“This is a state issue. It should not be agenda based, it should be based on science. The state fish and wildlife experts evaluated within their respective boundaries and borders,” said Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont. “If the environmentalists really wanted to get concerned about the bird population, maybe they should look at the 750,000 plus birds that are chopped up by wind and increasing. This is not about lead ammunition. This is about steps to reduce access to hunting. Their record is clear. What we face a lot of times with this administration is overreach.”

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