Newhouse Leads Defense of American Sportsmen and Women

Western Caucus Members call on Administration to support access to national wildlife refuges

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Chairman Dan Newhouse (WA-04) led 32 Members in sending a letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) Director Martha Williams expressing concerns about FWS’ decision to initiate settlement discussions with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) regarding a lawsuit seeking to eliminate hunting access expansion on nearly 100 national wildlife refuges.
 
CBD’s lawsuit alleges that FWS failed to comply with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act in promulgating the Trump Administration’s 2020 rule to expand hunting and fishing access on 2.2 million acres of national wildlife refuges. In 2021, the Biden Administration also expanded access on an additional 2.1 million acres. In the letter, lawmakers express concern that CBD’s opposition to the 2020 rule would also impact the Biden Administration’s expansion and result in banning the use of traditional ammo and tackle on all refuge lands.
 
“There has traditionally been bipartisan support for hunting expansions on refuges, which is one of six statutorily-designated priority uses of the nearly 100 million-acre system as described in the 1997 National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act,” wrote the lawmakers. “It is our strong hope that this Administration will protect ongoing and continued access to our nation’s wildlife refuges and ensure that our sportsmen and women have the opportunity to access our great outdoors. We urge the Administration to abandon these settlement discussions and strongly defend this access for Americans.”

The letter was signed by Chairman Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Vice Chairs Bruce Westerman (AR-04), Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Chris Stewart (UT-02), Liz Cheney (WY-AL), Pete Stauber (MN-08), and Doug Lamborn (CO-05), and Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), Ann Wagner (MO-02), Jay Obernolte (CA-08), Scott DesJarlais (TN-04), Joe Wilson (SC-02), Ronny Jackson (TX-13), Adrian Smith (NE-03), Bill Posey (FL-08), Ralph Norman (SC-05), Andy Harris (MD-01), Greg Steube (FL-17), Mike Simpson (ID-02), Michelle Fischbach (MN-07), Rodney Davis (IL-12), Jason Smith (MO-08), David Valadao (CA-21), Jeff Duncan (SC-03), Markwayne Mullin (OK-02), Tom McClintock (CA-04), Tom Tiffany (WI-07), Ben Cline (VA-06), Larry Bucshon (IN-08), Matt Rosendale (MT-AL), and Burgess Owens (UT-04).
 
Full text of the letter can be found here and below:
 
Director Williams, 
 
We write with great concern regarding the Biden Administration’s commitment – or potential lack thereof – to ensuring access on our nation’s wildlife refuges for hunters, fishers, and sportsmen and women. It has recently come to our attention that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has initiated settlement discussions with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) regarding a lawsuit seeking to eliminate hunting access expansion on nearly 100 national wildlife refuges. This information is deeply disappointing and flies in the face of the Biden Administration’s recent actions to further expand hunting access on wildlife refuge lands.
 
As you know, CBD’s complaint alleges that FWS failed to comply with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act in promulgating the Final 2020-2021 Station Specific Hunting and Sport Fishing Rule (2020 Rule). Shockingly, rather than defending the 2020 Rule in court, FWS initiated settlement discussions with this litigious special interest group, whose long track record of filing frivolous lawsuits has done nothing to further effective conservation efforts across the country. We are aware that CBD sent an opening settlement offer on January 13, and on February 7, the Court granted FWS and CBD’s publicly-filed joint motion to stay the proceedings for 60 days, which expires on April 8, 2022.
 
We are deeply concerned by these settlement discussions and the fact that the Administration has chosen not to publicly declare their intent to defend the expansion of access to our nation’s wildlife refuges, as this is in direct contradiction to the Biden Administration’s own recent actions. In the 2020 Rule, the Trump Administration expanded hunting on 2.2 million acres of national wildlife refuges. Late last year, the Biden Administration further expanded access on an additional 2.1 million acres. In light of CBD’s lawsuit opposing the 2020 Rule, it is hard to imagine any settlement would not involve the loss of hunting opportunities on lands included in both of these executive actions. We are especially concerned that the settlement may invoke policies set during the Obama Administration banning the use of traditional ammo and tackle on all refuge lands. This is unacceptable. If invoked, this will greatly limit hunting and fishing access on national wildlife refuges across the United States and effectively nullifies the Biden Administration’s public access expansion efforts. 
 
There has traditionally been bipartisan support for hunting expansions on refuges, which is one of six statutorily-designated priority uses of the nearly 100 million acre-system as described in the 1997 National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act. It is our strong hope that this Administration will protect ongoing and continued access to our nation’s wildlife refuges and ensure that our sportsmen and women have the opportunity to access our great outdoors. We urge the Administration to abandon these settlement discussions and strongly defend this access for Americans. 
 
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