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National Govt & Politics
US expands hunting and fishing at national wildlife refuges
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US expands hunting and fishing at national wildlife refuges

US expands hunting and fishing at national wildlife refuges
Photo Credit: Bill Schaefer/The Idaho State Journal via AP, File
FILE - This June 24, 2004, file photo, shows Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge near American Falls, Idaho. The Trump administration announced on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, it is expanding hunting and fishing at nearly 80 national wildlife refuges, including Minidoka, in what it says is a bonus for hunters and anglers but what critics contend is deferring management to states with potential to harm wildlife populations. (Bill Schaefer/The Idaho State Journal via AP, File)

US expands hunting and fishing at national wildlife refuges

The Trump administration said Tuesday that it is expanding hunting and fishing in 77 national wildlife refuges in a move that critics contend is deferring management to states and could harm wildlife.

The Interior Department's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said hunters and anglers can shoot and cast their rods on 2,200 square miles (5,700 square kilometers) of federally protected land in 37 states, much of which is considered critical habitat for waterfowl and other birds to rest and refuel during their migration.

"This is the largest single effort to expand hunting and fishing access in recent history," Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said last month before the changes were posted Tuesday in the Federal Register.

It's the latest effort by the Trump administration to open public lands to recreation and industry, including oil and gas drilling, which critics say comes at the expense of the environment and wildlife.

President Donald Trump also has scaled back two sprawling national monuments in Utah, a move that opened the lands that were cut to potential drilling and mining. New plans for the monuments allow more grazing and recreation. 

Hunting and fishing will be allowed at seven national wildlife refuges for the first time and expanded at 70 others. The agency, which also now permits it at 15 national fish hatcheries, said some 5,000 regulations have been eliminated or simplified to match state rules.

Conservationists said the changes went into effect without adequate environmental review.

"While the Trump policy retains federal ownership, it basically eviscerates federal management," said Jeff Ruch of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. "The states end up managing federal land with federal dollars but following state laws. That's a sea change from federal management for conservation and biodiversity rather than promoting hunting."

One of the big concerns is that state and federal officials don't appear to have a monitoring system to see what effect the changes might have, not only on game species but those that aren't hunted, Ruch said.

Hunting groups generally supported the changes.

Chief Executive Officer Adam Putnam of Ducks Unlimited, a group that works to conserve waterfowl habitat, said the changes wouldn't harm wildlife populations. He said simplifying regulations by adopting state rules would draw more people outdoors.

"It's going to encourage new hunters and anglers to enter the sport and fall in love with the outdoors and become lifelong conservationists," he said.

Among the areas opening to hunting and fishing for the first time are the 4 ½ square miles (12 square kilometers) at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery in central Colorado.

Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge in southern Idaho faces two significant changes: opening a season for hunting elk with bows and arrows and extending boating season by a month.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials, like several other state wildlife agencies, said the federal changes fell short of what they wanted. The U.S. agency said in the newly released rule that it looked forward to working with states on future changes for the start of the 2020 fall hunting season.

Idaho wildlife officials didn't immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

President Theodore Roosevelt founded the National Wildlife Refuge system in 1903, signing an executive order to establish the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida to protect several types of birds from ornamental plume hunters. There are now more than 550 national wildlife refuges.

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Update 2:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 13: Huffman appeared in a courtroom on the third floor of the federal courthouse in Boston on Friday for a sentencing hearing. Her husband, actor William H. Macy, was also in the courthouse, according to WFXT. He has not been charged as part of the case. Update 2 p.m. EDT Sept. 13: Huffman arrived at the federal courthouse in Boston on Friday afternoon ahead of her scheduled sentencing hearing. Original report: Prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani to sentence the 'Desperate Housewives' actress to one month in prison and supervised release, citing her deliberate and repeated deception of her daughter's high school, the college entrance exam system and college administrators. They have also asked she be fined $20,000. 'Her efforts weren't driven by need or desperation, but by a sense of entitlement, or at least moral cluelessness, facilitated by wealth and insularity,' prosecutors said last week in a sentencing memo filed in court. Authorities said Huffman coordinated with Singer to convince test administrators to give her daughter extended time to take the SAT in 2017, citing a 'learning difference.' She arranged to have her daughter take the test at a center affiliated with Singer, where her answers were altered to boost her score by about 400 points, prosecutors said. 'She could buy her daughter every conceivable legitimate advantage, introduce her to any number of useful personal connections, and give her a profound leg up on the competition simply because she would be applying to college as the daughter of a movie star,' prosecutors said in the sentencing memo. 'But Huffman opted instead to use her daughter's legitimate learning differences in service of a fraud on the system, one that Huffman knew, by definition, would harm some other student who would be denied admission because Huffman's daughter was admitted in his or her place, under false pretenses.' Attorneys for Huffman have asked Talwani to sentence her to one year of probation, 250 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine, calling the incident out of character and noting her remorse for her part in the admissions scheme. 'In my desperation to be a good mother I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot,' Huffman wrote in a letter to the court filed last week. 'I honestly didn't and don't care about my daughter going to a prestigious college. I just wanted to give her a shot at being considered for a program where her acting talent would be the deciding factor. That sounds hollow now, but, in my mind, I knew that her success or failure in theater or film wouldn't depend on her math skills. I didn't want my daughter to be prevented from getting a shot at auditioning doing what she loves because she can't do math.' Huffman is scheduled to appear Friday afternoon in the federal courthouse in Boston. Huffman was one of more than 50 people, including 34 parents, to be charged earlier this year with participating in the large-scale admissions scheme. Prosecutors said the parents involved paid Singer to bribe college coaches and rig test scores to get their children into elite universities. The scandal also led to the arrests of “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, both of whom are fighting the charges. The amount Huffman paid is relatively low compared to other bribes alleged in the scheme. Some parents are accused of paying up to $500,000 to get their children into elite schools by having them labeled as recruited athletes for sports they didn't even play. Authorities say it's the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department, with a total of 51 people charged. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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