By: Robert Davis

President Trump is backing a proposal from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt that will open 1.4 million acres of public land to hunters and fishers and slash thousands of regulations that restrict access to those lands.

“The president fundamentally gets that hunters and anglers are the true conservationists in our society,” Bernhardt told The Washington Examiner. “He understands that history and that we need to act in efforts to expand hunting and fishing while at the same time being respectful of private land rights, respectful of state law.”

The proposal is a personal one for Bernhardt, who grew up in western Colorado. He credits his upbringing for molding his self-confidence and making him eager to take on challenges. He hopes future generations will learn those same lessons and enjoy the outdoors.

“Hunting and fishing are more than just traditional pastimes, as they are also vital to the conservation of our lands and waters, our outdoor recreation economy, and our American way of life,” Bernhardt told

Nearly 90 wildlife refuges and hatcheries nationwide will be affected by this proposal. Some of them will allow hunters and fishers onto their land for the first time. Additionally, 67 refuges will see their hunting and sport fishing opportunities expanded.

Leadville National Fish Hatchery in northern Colorado will be open to migratory game bird, upland game, and big game hunting, and sport fishing for the first time. The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Idaho will expand existing migratory game bird, upland game, and big game hunting to new 330 acres.

Since refuges and fisheries are governed by both state and federal laws, it’s necessary to clean-up and clarify the language of existing rules, Bernhardt argues.
His plan would eliminate more than 2,100 local regulations and specify more than 2,900 refuge specific regulations. reports that “many of the current regulations on the books are long obsolete, points out USFWS, such as a mandate for medical access waiver permits on a refuge in Virginia although local officials have not issued any such waivers for more than 30 years, and have no plans to issue any in the future.”

Bernhardt says he hopes the proposed lands are open before dove season begins in September.

Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. You can contact him with tips or comments at [email protected].