Hunting, fishing in shelters are the subject of a lawsuit | national news

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An environmental group sued the US Fish and Wildlife Service for expanding access to hunting and fishing at federal wildlife sanctuaries, including the Swan River National Wildlife Refuge in Montana.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed its lawsuit in federal court in Missoula on Monday. He accuses Fish and Wildlife, now led by former Montana Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Parks director Martha Williams, of failing to investigate how increased hunting and fishing at shelters might harm endangered species like grizzly bears.

Trump Fish and Wildlife administration staff expanded access to sport hunting and fishing at National Wildlife Sanctuaries in 2020. This rule change affected 147 refuges and 2.3 million acres across. United States. In addition, the agency expanded hunting and fishing opportunities to 77 shelters and 1.4 million acres in 2019 and 13 shelters in 2016.

And the Biden administration continued this practice, announcing increased access to 2.1 million acres through the America the Beautiful Act in August.

The National Fish and Wildlife Refuge System encompasses approximately 95 million acres of land as well as 760 million acres of water bodies. This is broken down into 567 wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts, receiving 61 million annual visits. In addition to hunting and fishing, shelters are popular for wildlife viewing, photography, environmental education, hiking, and boating.

The lawsuit uses the 1,568-acre Swan River National Wildlife Refuge as one of its examples. The new rule opened the refuge to black bear bow hunting. Lawyers for the Center for Biological Diversity have argued that federally protected grizzly bears are at risk of being killed by mistake or in self-defense by archers looking for black bears.

The lawsuit also criticizes Fish and Wildlife for allegedly ignoring its own research into the risk of lead ammunition and fishing gear to wildlife health. Lead is a neurotoxin and can damage fish, birds, and mammals that ingest it from bullets, bullets and pellets.

“The agency’s analysis of the cumulative impacts of lead is limited to two paragraphs and is based on findings that contradict their own statements in the public media that the Hunting and Fishing Rule is the greatest expansion of hunting and fishing in recent history, ”wrote the attorneys for the Center for Biological Diversity. . “(It indicates) that” the number of new hunters or anglers who are expected to use lead bullets or equipment because of the new or expanded opportunities is expected to be very low and hence the addition of lead to the environment which result was negligible or minor. ‘

In addition, the lawsuit argues that the increase in sporting activities results in more traffic, noise and disturbance to sensitive wildlife – which Fish and Wildlife has not adequately analyzed as required by the Law on Fish and Wildlife. endangered species and other laws. This increases the risk to federally protected jaguars, ocelots, jaguarondi, Audubon’s crested caracara, wood stork and whooping crane.

In addition to the Swan River Refuge, the lawsuit highlights potential damage to Leslie Canyon in Arizona, Laguna Atascosa in Texas, Everglades Headwaters and St. Marks in Florida, Kirwin in Kansas, Patoka in Indiana and Lacreek in North Dakota. South.

A spokeswoman for Fish and Wildlife said the service made no comment on the lawsuit on Monday.

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