OAK HARBOR, Ohio -- The Trump administration on Wednesday proposed opening up more federally protected land for hunting and fishing in what it called a major expansion of those activities in the nation's wildlife refuges.
The plan affects 1.4 million acres (5,666 square kilometers) on federal public lands, including 74 national wildlife refuges, U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge along Lake Erie in northern Ohio.
The proposal would allow hunting and fishing for the first time at 15 national fish hatcheries. The department also wants to revise hunting and fishing rules at refuges in all states to more closely match state regulations.
Interior Department land managers were told last September to review hunting and fishing regulations to determine where they conflict with state regulations, with a goal of deferring to state management unless they clash with federal law.
A comprehensive review of federal and state rules is something that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had never been done before, Bernhardt said.
Under the proposed expansion at sites in 46 states, the number of wildlife refuges where hunting would be allowed would increase by five to 382 while fishing would be allowed at 316 locations.
"It's a dramatic statement about our commitment to access," Bernhardt said, adding: "The goal is to get more people out."
Lack of access to hunting and fishing sites is one of the most common reasons people don't begin those activities, Bernhardt said.
One of the new refuges where hunting and fishing would be allowed is Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin. Deer and elk hunting would be allowed for the first time at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge.
The expansion is the largest proposed by the administration to date, Bernhardt said.
The plan is to finalize the proposal by September after public comment.