Canada geese glide over the calm surface of a pond known as Otter Flowage on May 28, 2017, in Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in the eastern Maine town of Baring. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki

WASHINGTON — Fishermen and hunters will have increased opportunities to pursue those activities at two Maine national wildlife refuges during the 2018-2019 seasons as the result of action announced Friday by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

The Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Baring and the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells both were on the list of public lands where hunting and fishing will be expanded.

The move expands existing migratory game bird, upland game and big game hunting at Moosehorn, and further opens up existing white-tailed deer and wild turkey hunting at the Rachel Carson site.

Zinke will open more than 251,000 acres to new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities at 30 national wildlife refuges across the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System. This will now bring the number of units where the public may hunt to 377 and the number where fishing is permitted to 312.

In addition to opening up more acres to fishing and hunting, the move takes steps to simplify regulations to more closely match state hunting and fishing regulations.

“American sportsmen and women contribute over a billion dollars a year to fund conservation. Without hunters and anglers, we wouldn’t be able to conserve wildlife and habitat; and, without access to our public lands like National Wildlife Refuges, many hunters would have nowhere to go,” Zinke said in a press release.

“The last thing I want to see is hunting to become an elite sport, rather than a tradition passed on from generation to generation. Today’s announcement protects critical conservation funding, and ensures sportsmen have access to public lands for generations to come,” Zinke added.

Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic activity in communities across the United States in 2016 according to the Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years. More than 101 million Americans – 40 percent of the U.S. population 16 and older – pursue wildlife-related recreation – hunting, fishing and birding, among others.

“Hunting and fishing are family activities that pass down from generation to generation. National wildlife refuges provide all Americans with places to hunt, fish, observe the natural world firsthand and experience the great outdoors,” Cynthia Martinez, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System said in the release. “We are pleased to be able to offer hunting and fishing opportunities, and other recreational activities where they are compatible with national wildlife refuge management goals.”

The Service manages hunting and fishing programs to ensure sustainable wildlife populations while also offering other wildlife-dependent recreation on public lands, such as wildlife watching and photography. The Refuge System is an unparalleled network of 566 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas.

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